HIGH POINT, N.C. - The Belmont Abbey College women's soccer team has been picked to win the Conference Carolinas title for the seventh-straight year as it welcomes in new coach Mike Lynch. Lynch will benefit from the return of five All-Conference standouts from last season's team where the Crusaders went unbeaten in their first 14 matches (with 12 wins) and ascended to as high as 17th in the national rankings and first in the NCAA Southeast Regional rankings. Pfeiffer University registers at #2 while Lees-McRae rounds out the top three.
Senior Connie Axiotis returns for the Abbey for her final year after leading the club with ten goals last year. Joining Axioitis are four All-Conference members that include Nicole Voets, Carly Kensinger, Kristin Foster and Rebecca Mateo. The Crusaders face a tough test in 2011 as they open with their first five and six of the first seven matches on the road.
Pfeiffer University women's soccer team comes in at number two in this year's preseason poll as voted on by league head coaches despite claiming the 2010 Conference Carolinas Tournament Championship over Belmont Abbey and claiming a spot in the NCAA tournament. The Lady Falcons finished 2010 with a 13-6-2 record, posting an 8-2 mark in league play. Pfeiffer's season came to an end in the first round of the NCAA tournament falling 3-0 to UNC-Pembroke in Savannah, Georgia.
For the second-straight season, Pfeiffer returns their leading scorer from a year ago in Alyssa Wombwell who put home nine goals with six assists. Sophomore Sheena Regan will help anchor a young core of Lady Falcons in 2011 after finding the back of the net seven times a season ago. In goal, both Amanda Wemple and Jamie Alcala return as Wemple set a school-record posting seven consecutive shutouts with 758:58 scoreless minutes after Alcala went down with a mid-season injury. In addition to the experienced veterans returning, the Lady Falcons ushered in 16 newcomers this fall with 14 in the freshman ranks.
Lees-McRae College looks to build upon the success of Cally Morrill's first season at the helm, claiming the third spot in this year's preseason poll after finishing the 2010 campaign in a three-way tie for second in the Conference Carolinas standings, posting a 14-6 overall record and an 8-2 mark against league opponents. The Bobcats will rely on a seasoned core of seniors to lead their young team on its quest for the program's second conference title, including 2010 All-Conference Carolinas selections Vickie Rich, Brooke Santerre and Mary Dorn.
Rounding out the poll 4-12 was: Queens, Mount Olive, Limestone, Erskine, King & North Greenville (tied), Barton, Coker, and Converse respectively.
Conference Carolinas Women's Soccer Preseason Poll (# of First Place Votes in Parenthesis)
1. Belmont Abbey - (6) 115
2. Pfeiffer - (5) 112
3. Lees McRae - (1) 101
4. Queens - 93
5. Mount Olive - 80
6. Limestone - 70
7. Erskine - 53
T-8. King - 49
T-8. North Greenville - 49
10. Barton - 26
11. Coker - 24
12. Converse - 20