ASU picked 7th in Sun Belt Soccer Preseason Poll

From the Sun Belt Conference

After advancing to the NCAA Tournament in 2011, FIU was picked to win the league in the 2012 Sun Belt Conference Women's Soccer Preseason Poll announced on Thursday. The SBC also announced its Women's Soccer Preseason All-Conference team, as selections were made in a vote by the league's 11 head coaches.

FIU junior forward Chelsea Leiva headlines the preseason team, along with North Texas' Michelle Young as due was named SBC Preseason Co-Offensive Players of the Year. Leiva won Second Team All-SBC honors last season and was also selected to the All-SBC Tournament team. She finished 2011 tied for the team lead in goals (five) and led FIU in assists (seven) and points (17). Additionally, she assisted on three game-winning goals for the Panthers and tied for seventh in SBC play with 12 points.

The Panthers head into the 2012 soccer season as the favorite to win the league after claiming its first SBC Championship since 2000. FIU received five first-place votes from the coaches and earned 114 points in the preseason poll. The Panthers return six starters from last year's squad.

NT's Young is coming off her best season as she earned First-Team All-Sun Belt honors in 2011 after registering three multi-goal games. She is tied for seventh on the all-time scoring list at NT with 30 career goals, and is fifth all-time in program history in career game-winning goals. Young ranked third in the SBC in goals scored with 13 and third in points scored with 29.

The Mean Green, who took home the regular season title in 2011, were picked to finish second in the 2012 preseason poll, equaling FIU's five first-place votes. They are backed by sophomore goalkeeper Jackie Kerestine who also earned a spot on the Preseason All-SBC team after a stellar freshman campaign.

On defense, the Mean Green are led by Kelsey Hodges who, in addition to Kerestine, helped hold opponents to a 0.74 goals-against-average in 2011, the second-lowest in NT program history. She earned First-Team All-SBC honors in 2011 after leading all SBC defenders with seven goals while adding four assists. Hodges was named the 2012 Preseason Defensive Player of the Year.

Middle Tennessee was tabbed for a third-place finish in the preseason poll and tallied one first-place vote. The Blue Raiders are guided by seniors Regina Thomas (forward), Paige Goeglein (midfielder) and Allison Stallard (defender), who each earned Preseason All-Conference honors.

Rounding out the Preseason All-Conference team are Western Kentucky's Chrissy Tchoula, a junior midfielder, and senior defender Ali Stahlke. The Lady Toppers are tied with the Blue Raiders for third-place in the 2012 Preseason Poll.

The 2012 women's soccer season kicks off Aug. 17 with all 11 SBC teams in action, while conference play is set to begin on September 21. The top eight teams will advance to the Sun Belt Conference Championships which begins on October 31 and will be hosted by South Alabama.

2012 SBC Preseason All-Conference Team

Chelsea Leiva (FIU, Junior, Forward)

Regina Thomas (Middle Tennessee, RS-Senior, Forward)

Michelle Young (North Texas, Senior, Forward)

Nicole DiPerna (FIU, Junior Midfielder)

Paige Goeglein (Middle Tennessee, Senior, Midfielder)

Chrissy Tchoula (WKU, Junior, Midfielder)

Allison Stallard (Middle Tennessee, Senior, Defender)

Kelsey Hodges (North Texas, Junior, Defender)

Ali Stahlke (WKU, Senior, Defender)

Kaitlin Savage (FIU, Junior, Goalkeeper)

Jackie Kerestine (North Texas, Sophomore, Goalkeeper)

2012 SBC Preseason Co-Offensive Players of the Year

Chelsea Leiva (FIU, Junior, Forward)

Michelle Young (North Texas, Senior, Forward)

2012 SBC Preseason Defensive Player of the Year

Kelsey Hodges (North Texas, Junior, Defender)

2012 SBC Soccer Preseason Poll

1. FIU (5) - 114 points

2. North Texas (5) - 110 points

3. Middle Tennessee (1) - 93 points

3. Western Kentucky - 93 points

5. Troy - 68 points

5. South Alabama - 68 points

7. Arkansas State - 56 points

8. Florida Atlantic - 40 points

9. UALR - 37 points

10. Louisiana-Lafayette - 35 points

11. Louisiana-Monroe - 12 points