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HU Women's Soccer Selected Fourth in GAC Preseason Poll
RUSSELLVILLE, Ark. – East Central became the pick of the Great American Conference women's soccer head coaches to repeat as league champion following the release of the preseason poll, the conference office announced on Thursday.
The Tigers earned a pair of first-place votes. Ouachita Baptist and Southwestern Oklahoma State shared second place and both schools received a first place vote. Harding took fourth place.
East Central returns 18 from last season's title-winning squad, but must replace 2011 GAC Offensive Player of the Year Whitney Watts. The Glutz twins - Margaret and Katie - return for the Tigers. Margaret claimed Freshman of the Year honors and a place on the National Soccer Coaches Association of America Third Team All-South Central Region team after anchoring the backline. Katie notched a goal and five assists in her first season. The Tigers also return their top scorer, Ashley Bradford, for her junior campaign. She earned First-Team All-GAC honors after scoring six times and totaling 14 points.
Last seasons two runner-ups - Southwestern Oklahoma State (regular season) and Ouachita Baptist (tournament) shared second place in the poll. The Bulldogs return the 2011 GAC Defensive Player of the Year, Kira Bertrand, who helped them lead the conference in goals-against average, 0.65, while registering eight shutouts. Offensively, junior Kelsey Visor looks to lead the way. In 2011, she tied for second in the GAC in points, 18, and third in the conference with seven goals.
Ouachita Baptist returns a pair of First-Team All-GAC performers for the 2012 season in midfielder Lauren Hatch and defender Carrie Lieblong. The Tigers welcome in a new head coach, Kevin Wright, to lead the team this fall. He had coached at Howard Payne University in Texas the previous four years.
Harding opens 2012 with strength on defense as the Bisons return All-GAC and All-South Region center back Hannah Hatcher. She paced the team with 1652 minutes played.
The women's soccer season begins in two weeks with Ouachita Baptist and Harding opening play. East Central and Southwestern Oklahoma State kick off the following day. The season concludes with the GAC Championship Tournament, which will be held on the campus of the regular season champion November 2-4.
Coaches did not include provisional members Northwestern Oklahoma State and Southern Nazarene in the preseason ballot.
Team Total (1st)
1. East Central 8 (1)
2. Southwestern Oklahoma State 6 (1)
2. Ouachita Baptist 6 (1)
4. Harding 4
2012 Season Preview
Harding has plenty of depth at the midfield position. The top two returnees are juniors Ashley Royce and Erin Haltiwanger. Sophomore Anne Fitzgerald, who tied for the team lead with three assists last season, will also be back in the midfield, along with classmate Katelyn Tschiggfrie, who started nine games as a freshman.
Harding's starting goalkeeper last year, Danielle Nonaka, returns for her sophomore season. Nonaka made 116 saves and had a shutout in her collegiate debut.
Harding has a very young team in 2012 with 16 of the 22 players on the roster holding freshman or sophomore eligibility.
The Lady Bisons open the 2012 season at Christian Brothers on Aug. 30.