HIGH POINT, N.C. - The Belmont Abbey College women’s soccer team has been picked as the preseason favorite by Conference Carolinas league head coaches for the upcoming season. The Abbey women’s team returns 15 players from last season’s unit that went 14-6 overall with a 9-2 league mark and captured the Conference Carolinas title. Pfeiffer University comes in at number two followed by Queens rounding out the top three.
Belmont Abbey advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since the 2001 season adding to their fourth overall NCAA appearance. The Abbey has won six conference tournament championships and appeared in the Conference Tournament final in each of the last five seasons, winning in 2005, 2006 and 2009.
The Crusaders return their top four goal scorers from a year ago, including junior forward Connie Axiotis, who led the league with 14 goals en route to capturing Player of the Year honors. Sophomore Alana Ryczek (eight goals), junior Nicole Voets (seven goals) and junior forward Rebecca Mateo (five goals) also return for the Crusaders. Axiotis, who was also the Conference Freshman of the Year two season ago, Voets and Lindsay Palm all earned all-conference honors last year.
Pfeiffer’s women’s soccer team comes in at number two in this year’s preseason poll as voted on by league head coaches. The Lady Falcons finished 2009 with an 11-6-3 overall record, and 8-1-2 in Conference Carolinas play finishing second behind Belmont Abbey. Pfeiffer’s season came to a sudden end in a 1-0 loss to Limestone in a neutral site, first round matchup in the conference tournament.
Pfeiffer returns their leading scorer from a year ago in Alyssa Wombwell while welcoming back a steady core of defenders that led the Lady Falcons to five shutouts in 2009. Wombwell netted a team-high 11 goals last season finishing second with four assists. Megan Reaves, one of six seniors, led the way with five helpers. Alex Cook, Erin Menzel, Sara McCormack and Jessica Moulton will help anchor the defense in the backfield in front of juniors Jamie Alcala and Amanda Wemple standing in net.
In addition to the experienced returnees, the Lady Falcons ushered in a freshman class of 11 to help with the 2010 campaign.
Queens University of Charlotte is third in this year’s preseason poll. The Royals finished fourth in the conference regular season last year with a 7-3-1 conference record and 9-11-1 overall record.
The 2010 Royals, under fifth year Head Coach Katie Talbert, will return Conference Carolinas All-Conference first teamer and Freshman of the Year Kristen Wright who led her team in points and goals during the 2009 season. Including Kristen Wright, the Royals return five of their top six point getters. Rounding out the list are Meagan Sload, Amanda Wright, Katherine Karr, and Kelsey Howard. Queens also returns two of the top defenders in the league in Anna Decker and Lauren Vawter.
In addition, 2008 All-Conference first teamer Sami Striano will return to the field after sitting out the 2009 season due to injury. The experience and depth of the returning players combined with ten newcomers have the Royals excited about the upcoming season.
Rounding out the poll 4-12 was: Limestone, Erskine, Mount Olive, Lees-McRae, Barton, Converse, St. Andrews, and Coker respectively.
Conference Carolinas Women’s Soccer Preseason Poll (# of First Place Votes in Parenthesis)