August 17, 2011
Soccer Picked Second In Preseason Poll;
Moll Named To All-SoCon Team
The Samford University soccer team was predicted to finish second in the annual Southern Conference preseason poll, which was compiled from a vote taken of the conference's 12 head coaches and officially released by the SoCon office. In their fourth season as a member of the talent-laden SoCon, Tuesday marked a consecutive year that the Bulldogs were predicted to finish second.
In previous seasons, Samford was predicted to finish fourth in 2008, third in 2009 and second in 2010.
"We're picked second in the SoCon preseason poll, but if you look at the number of players that we lost from last season, we lost two first-team all-conference players and a second-team all-conference player, so we realize that we have a long ways to go and a lot of improvement to make," said Samford head coach Todd Yelton. "We just need to keep getting better every time out and let our younger players continue to come along and help us."
The SoCon head coaches selected UNCG as the narrow favorite to win its sixth consecutive conference championship in 2011. The group also selected an 11-player preseason all-conference team.
The Spartans were a perfect 11-0 in league play a year ago, sweeping through the regular season and conference tournament to win their fifth straight regular season crown and third tournament title in five years. The Spartans are under the direction of new head coach Steve Nugent in 2011 and return five starters from last season's unbeaten squad.
UNCG claimed seven-of-12 first-place votes and 112 total points to lead the balloting, finishing one point ahead of Samford.
"UNC Greensboro is a really good team and you have to give them the nod right now," Yelton said. "We are all chasing them at the moment and over the last few years they've been the team to beat. At the end of the day, we're not too concerned about where we're ranked in the polls or where we are in the standings right now, we're far more concerned where we end up come November."
The Spartans placed a league-high three players on the preseason all-conference team, including midfielder Jaimey Etten, defender Kat Barnekow and goalkeeper Kelsey Kearney, who was the 2010 SoCon Tournament's Most Outstanding Player.
Samford, entering its fourth season as a SoCon member, is in pursuit of its first SoCon title. The Bulldogs have finished second to UNCG each of the past two seasons while also placing as the SoCon Tournament runner-up in 2010.
Yelton's squad received the remaining five first-place nods. The Bulldogs are led by preseason all-conference selection, Michelle Moll, a sophomore midfielder.
Moll, as a freshman in 2010, was named to the All-Tournament Team of the SoCon Tournament as she helped the Bulldogs advance to the championship match of the prestigious eight-team competition. Moll started in 20 of the team's 22 matches as a true freshman and earned playing time in all of the Bulldogs' contests.
As a key member of Samford's young midfield, Moll logged 1,656 minutes of game action, which ranked fifth on the team. She played every minute of a match nine times, including a career-high 110-minute totals against both Davidson (Oct. 22) and Davidson (Oct. 31). Moll finished the 2011 season with three goals and three assists for a total of nine points.
"Michelle's a quality player and hopefully we'll get her back soon," said Yelton. "She's currently working through an injury, but she's a really good player and this is a well-deserved honor for her. I'm sure that we have several players on our squad that will leave their mark in conference play once we get there, but right now we're really proud of Michelle."
Coming in third place in the preseason poll was The Citadel with 89 total points. Under the direction of two-time SoCon Coach of the Year Bob Winch, the Bulldogs boast last season's Player and Freshman of the Year, Mariana Garcia, on the all-league squad.
College of Charleston (86 points) grabbed the fourth spot in the balloting and was followed by Elon (82), Furman (77), Davidson (69) and Western Carolina (46) in the fifth through eighth positions, respectively. Appalachian State (42), Wofford (32), Georgia Southern (26) and Chattanooga (20) closed out the poll.
"The SoCon is a very strong conference and there are a lot of quality teams in this league," Yelton said. "Just look at what The Citadel was able to accomplish last season. They were picked 10th in the preseason and ended up making it to the semifinals of the SoCon Tournament. The league changes from year to year, but I think that the quality and talent in this conference continues to get better and better."
Other individuals named to the preseason All-SoCon Team include forwards Martha Hall (Furman) and Donna-Kay Henry (Chattanooga), midfielders Rachel Shelnutt (Furman) and Sarah Schaidle (College of Charleston), and defenders Hannah Gmerek (College of Charleston) and Andrea Keller (Elon).
Coaches were not permitted to vote for their own team or players in the balloting.
The 2011 regular season begins on Friday, Aug. 19 with eight of the conference's 12 teams in action. The 2011 SoCon Soccer Championship will feature the top eight teams in the final regular season standings with the final four facing off in Greensboro, N.C., on Nov. 4 and 6.
The Samford University soccer team will be one of the eight SoCon teams in action Friday at 7 p.m. (CST) as the Bulldogs host the Belmont Bruins in a season-opening contest to be held at the brand-new Samford Soccer Complex.
2011 Southern Conference
Women's Soccer Preseason Coaches' Poll
TEAM, TOTAL POINTS
1. UNCG (7), 112
2. Samford (5), 111
3. The Citadel, 89
4. College of Charleston, 86
5. Elon, 82
6. Furman, 77
7. Davidson, 69
8. Western Carolina, 46
9. Appalachian State, 42
10. Wofford, 32
11. Georgia Southern, 26
12. Chattanooga, 20
- () denotes first-place votes
2011 Southern Conference
Women's Soccer Preseason Team
F, Mariana Garcia, The Citadel
F, Martha Hall, Furman
F, Donna-Kay Henry, Chattanooga
MF, Sarah Schaidle, College of Charleston
MF, Rachel Shelnutt, Furman
MF, Jaimey Etten, UNCG
MF, Michelle Moll, Samford
D, Hannah Gmerek, College of Charleston
D, Andrea Keller, Elon
D, Cat Barnekow, UNCG
GK, Kelsey Kearney, UNCG