Once again, the UT Tyler women’s soccer team is expected to be one of the top clubs in the American Southwest Conference.
Coach Stefani Webb’s Patriots are picked to finish second behind NCAA Division III national champion Hardin-Simmons. Last year, the Patriots reached the ASC tournament championship match before falling to Hardin-Simmons. UT Tyler finished with a 14-5 overall mark and 11-2 in the ASC.
The Patriots begin their season on Friday against Fredonia State (N.Y.) at Citizens 1st Bank-Perkins Soccer Complex on the UT Tyler campus. Kickoff is 7 p.m.
On Sunday, UT Tyler will play host to Texas College at 2 p.m.
Two seniors return from last year’s squad — midfielders Emily Bechdol (Cedar Hill) and Julie Williams (Garland).
Also, junior defenders Lindsey Edwards (Katy), Charity Shipman (Lindale) and Amanda Weaver (Arlington) will anchor a backline that allowed only 15 goals last season.
The Patriots are hopeful of halting Hardin-Simmons’ streak of eight consecutive ASC titles. Also, the Cowgirls have won 13 overall championships.
H-S (24-0-1 and 13-0 ASC) was the pick in the voting by the league’s head coaches and sports information directors. The Cowgirls also swept preseason Player of the Year honors — Katie Kuykendall and Brittany Vacca.
Head coach Marcus Wood’s top-ranked Cowgirls have gone 132 games without losing to an ASC opponent. HSU had 113 goals and allowed only six scores on its way to becoming the ASC’s first national champion in women’s soccer. The Cowgirls topped Messiah (Pa.) 2-1 in the NCAA title game.
The Patriots lost to the Cowgirls 2-1 in double overtime during their regular season matchup in Tyler and 4-1 to H-S in the tournament final in Abilene.
Following H-S and UT Tyler in the standings are two-time ASC champion UT Dallas, Mississippi College, Howard Payne and Concordia Texas. The top six teams advance to the ASC tournament, which will be held Nov. 4-6 at the league champions’ home field.
Rounding out the predictions are: 7, Mary Hardin-Baylor; 8, East Texas Baptist; 9, Centenary; 10, Texas Lutheran; 11, Schreiner; 12, LeTourneau; 13, McMurry; 14, Ozarks; and 15, Louisiana College.
Kuykendall (Weatherford), a junior midfielder/forward, was named the ASC Preseason Offensive Player of the Year. She posted a conference-record 24 assists and added 10 goals last season. Kuykendall was also named MVP of the conference tournament.
Vacca (Abilene), a senior defender, was voted ASC Preseason Defensive Player of the Year. She spearheaded a unit that posted a conference-record 19 shutouts and allowed just 0.24 goals per game last year. Vacca also took home the league’s defensive player of the year honor.
Kuykendall and Vacca were each D3Soccer.com all-Americans and first team all-ASC selections last season.
As in other sports, Centenary is ineligible for ASC and NCAA postseason play as a reclassifying Division III member.
The Patriot squad, which is picked to win the ASC for the second straight year, opens its season with a couple of weekend games. On Saturday, the Patriots travel to Georgetown to meet Southwestern (5 p.m.). Then on Labor Day, UT Tyler meets Trinity in San Antonio. The match has a 4 p.m. start.
UT Tyler’s home opener at Citizens 1st Bank-Perkins Soccer Complex on Sept. 8 is against LSU-Shreveport. The match has a 7 p.m. start.
The Patriot volleyball squad opens their season in Conway, Ark., when they take part in the Hendrix Tournament Sept. 2-3. On Friday, the Patriots play Central Baptist (5 p.m.) and Williams Baptist (7 p.m.) and on Saturday, they play LeTourneau (10 a.m.) and Hendrix (noon).
UT Tyler’s home opener is Sept. 16 against East Texas Baptist at the Herrington Patriot Center. The match is slated to begin at 7 p.m.
The Patriots take part in the Baylor Invitational on Thursday in Waco. On Sept. 10, they will host the UT Tyler Invitational.