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The John Brown University women's soccer team was picked to finish as runner-up in the Sooner Athletic Conference, per the release of the 2018 SAC Women's Soccer Coaches Preseason Poll by the league office on Wednesday, Aug. 8.

The Golden Eagles finished just one point behind regular-season favorites and defending SAC Tournament champions, Science and Arts (Okla.). The Drovers finished with 69 points and five first-place votes while John Brown, who fell in a heart-breaking title rematch with USAO at Alumni Field in a 2-1 double-overtime thriller, landed 68 points and four first-place votes. JBU will look to cement a sixth-straight SAC tournament championship match appearance and third-consecutive regular season title, including extending a current 24-match SAC regular-season winning streak.

2018 Sooner Athletic Conference Women’s Soccer Coaches’ Preseason Poll

Institution (First place votes)^Points

1. Science and Arts (5)^69

2. John Brown (4)^68

3. Texas Wesleyan^56

4. Oklahoma City^50

5. Mid-America Christian^45

6. Southwestern Assemblies of God^39

7. Wayland Baptist^26

8. Central Christian^22

9. Southwestern Christian^21

10. Bacone^9

John Brown completed the 2017 campaign with an 18-3-0 record after a perfect 10-0-0 run through the SAC gauntlet. Unfortunately, the Sooner Athletic Conference has but one automatic bid for the NAIA National Championships, which was awarded to USAO for its win at Alumni Field in the tournament championship. Last season, the coaches' poll predicted the Golden Eagles to win the league outright, with 10 first-place votes, which proved to be accurate. This season, John Brown will look to beat expectations.

Texas Wesleyan picked up 56 points in the third spot, and Oklahoma City polled 50 points to find fourth. Mid-America Christian (Okla.) reeled in 45 points for the fifth slot, while Southwestern Assemblies of God (Texas) came in at sixth with 39 points.

Wayland Baptist (Texas) was selected seventh, followed by Central Christian (Kan.), Southwestern Christian (Okla.) and Bacone (Okla.), respectively.

Reigning SAC Coach of the Year Kathleen Paulsen returns 20 letter winners from last year's squad, while featuring three newcomers -- two freshmen and a transfer.

John Brown's biggest task will be to replace SAC Player of the Year and NAIA All-America honorable mention selection Sara Frey, and All-Conference first-teamer Samantha Weber on the back line. Frey, a four-year mainstay in the midfield, graduated after a career year, scoring nine goals and dishing out seven assists (25 points), but often holding the opposition's top players in check through the midfield. Weber, a Springdale native, anchored a back line that allowed just three goals in 10 conference matches and posted 12 team shutouts, one shy of tying the program record. Weber also graduated after starting on defense for four seasons. Additionally, the Golden Eagles will be without the services of senior and SAC first-team selection Anne Metz, who will be unavailable this year due to a medical redshirt.

Offense won't be a problem, however, as JBU returns 75 percent of its goal-scoring output from last season, led by a pair of seniors in Jastin Redman and Aspen Carpenter. Redman, last year's SAC Co-Offensive Player of the Year and three-time All-SAC first-teamer, returns in the striking role after a 14-goal, 12-assist (40 points) output last season. She has led John Brown in scoring in all three previous seasons. Joining her is Carpenter, a two-time All-SAC first-team selection, and her 10 goal and five assist effort from 2017. Six different players scored over 20 points last year for JBU, four of which return, including SAC first-teamer Sienna Nealon (23 points) and Anna Brown.

Defensively, the Golden Eagles were one of the best teams in the country last season. Pitching 12 shutouts, including one stretch of eight straight clean sheets, and nearly 730 consecutive minutes without conceding. Goalkeeping duties were split between Caitlyn Logan, whose early-season heroics helped John Brown start out 5-2-0, and SAC Freshman and Goalkeeper of the Year, Maggie Allen. Allen posted a 12-1-0 record in her first season, allowing just .370 goals-against per contest and stopping 86.7 percent of shots sent her way.

John Brown kicks off the 2018 season with a pair of road matches at Missouri Valley and Columbia (Mo.) before making its Alumni Field debut against Bellevue (Neb.) on Aug. 24, part of First Friday Futbol festivities. Paulsen has crafted the most difficult schedule to date, one that features five opponents that earned bids to the 2017 NAIA National Championships, before the eventual showdown with Science and Arts, the sixth team that made the tournament, on Oct. 6 in Siloam Springs.

Sports on 08/12/2018

Print Headline: Women's soccer picked second in SAC

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