From the Southeastern Conference
Birmingham, Ala. – The Southeastern Conference unveiled its soccer coaches preseason watch list, Wednesday, to kick off another great season of SEC women's soccer.
• Alabama returns 12 letterwinners and eight starters from last season's team. The team boasts only four seniors in 2013, while 15 members of the squad are either sophomores (5) or freshmen (10).
• The Crimson Tide returns its top six scorers from last season in terms of points and goals scored. Highlighting the list of returning scorers is junior Pia Rijsdijk (7g, 6a/20 pts), sophomore Katie Bourgeois (8g, 3a/19 pts), senior Molly Atherton (6g, 4a/16 pts) and junior Theresa Diederich (7g, 1a/15 pts).
• Merel Van Dongen (3g, 3a/9 pts) returns following a successful rookie campaign. Last season, the Amsterdam, Netherlands native became the first Alabama player in program history to capture the SEC Freshman of the Year when she claimed the award in 2012. Over the summer, she gained international experience as she earned a spot on the Netherlands Women's National Team which competed in the 2013 European Championships.
• Alabama finished the 2012 season with a school record 357 total shots on the season. Furthermore, UA's 155 shots on goal (3rd), 1.95 goals per game average (7th) and 37 goals (9th) all rank among the top-10 in program lore.
Alabama Players to Watch:
Pia Rijsdijk – Forward
Merel Van Dongen – Midfielder
Theresa Diederich – Midfielder
Molly Atherton – Midfielder
• The Razorbacks are coming off their best Southeastern Conference season in school history when they won six league games and advanced to the SEC Tournament.
• Arkansas won its first two games in program history against ranked opponents last season.
• Arkansas returns 68 percent of its scoring from a year ago including three of its top four goal scorers, its entire back line and goalkeeper.
• Sophomore Ashleigh Ellenwood was named to the SEC All-Freshman team in 2012 after tying for the team lead with 13 points as a first-year player.
Arkansas Players to Watch:
Kaylyn Cooper – Defender
Ashleigh Ellenwood – Forward
Allie Tripp – Defender
• Auburn advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the seventh straight time and the 11th time overall in 2012. Auburn's 11 NCAA Tournament berths is the third-most among SEC teams behind only Texas A&M (18) and Florida (16) and its seven straight is also third-best behind Texas A&M (18) and Florida (10).
• Auburn played in a 12th consecutive SEC Tournament in 2012. Auburn's 12 straight SEC Tournament appearances is the third-longest active streak in the conference behind only Florida (18) and Tennessee (15). Auburn advanced to the SEC Tournament Championship match for the second straight season and the fifth time overall (1994, 2001, 2005, 2011, 2012).
• The Tigers return 11 letterwinners from last season including five players who logged 1,400 minutes or more. Auburn will have 10 newcomers, with eight freshmen and a pair of transfers. Auburn's signing class was ranked the 20th-best in the nation by TopDrawerSoccer.com and third-best in the SEC behind Georgia and Texas A&M.
• Head Coach Karen Hoppa will begin her 15th season at Auburn. Hoppa has a 228-155-33 (.588) career mark and a 164-111-24- (.589) record at Auburn. Hoppa's 228 wins is currently 35th among the winningest active coaches by victories.
Auburn Players to Watch:
Bianca Sierra – Defender
Tori Ball – Forward
Kala Faulkner – Defender
• Two who have earned NSCAA All-South Region and All-SEC honors return in 2013 – defenders Taylor Travis and Christen Westphal. Travis was part of the 2010 All-South Region and All-SEC second teams while Westphal was an All-SEC second team and All-South Region third-team selection in 2012.
• Two of Florida's top four point contributors return from the 2012 season – juniors Havana Solaun (7 goals, 8 assists, 22 points) and Annis Speese (6 goals, 4 assists, 16 points).
• Florida's eight-member freshman class has played with state, regional, national and/or international teams, including goalkeeper signee Nora Neset Gjøen (Bergen, Norway), who was part of Norway's Senior National Team roster for 2013 Algarve Cup and European Championship. Another international signee, Pamela Begič (Semic, Slovenia), played with Slovenia's team in qualifying action for the 2013 Women's EURO. Liz Slattery (Cincinnati, Ohio) is a 2011 and 2012 National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) High School All-America selection. Meggie Dougherty Howard (Largo, Fla.) and Savannah Jordan (Fayetteville, Ga.) have attended age group national camp at the U.S. National Training Center in Carson, Calif. Kristen Cardano (Tulsa, Okla.), Jordan, Katie Richmond (Pensacola, Fla.) and Brooke Sharpe (Ponte Vedra, Fla.) all have been part of state and regional Olympic Development Program (ODP) teams. Gjøen and Jordan both enrolled at UF for the spring 2013 semester.
Florida Players to Watch:
Taylor Travis – Defender
Christen Westphal – Defender/Midfielder
• The Georgia soccer team returns 15 letterwinners and six regular starters from the 2012 campaign, in addition to welcoming in 17 newcomers. Highlighting the returning group is senior All-SEC and All-Region defender Torri Allen, while the Bulldogs also return their top four most productive offensive players from a season ago in Nicole Locandro, Bella Hartley, Meghan Gibbons, and Madeline Barker.
• Head coach Steve Holeman - entering his fourth season at Georgia and 20th overall - needs just four wins to notch 200 for his career.
• Among the 17 newcomers are two Gatorade high school state players of the year in Rachel Garcia (Georgia) and Marion Crowder (Mississippi).
• Georgia will play six games against last year's NCAA Tournament field, and will play 11 games at home.
Georgia Players to Watch:
Laura Eddy – Midfield
Nicole Locandro – Midfield
Torri Allen – Defender
Nikki Hill – Defender
• Kentucky will be returning nine of 11 starters from the 2012 team that captured the program's first-ever NCAA Tournament win.
• 10 of 12 players who scored a goal for the Wildcats in 2012 will return to play for the 2013 season.
• UK Soccer will be opening up a new stadium, as the multi-million dollar UK Soccer Complex will commence with new state-of-the-art seats, press box, team locker rooms, lounge area and more.
• The Wildcats 2013 fall schedule, which will feature eight non-conference games, 11 Southeastern Conference games, 10 home matches at the newly-renovated UK Soccer Complex, and six matches against NCAA Tournament teams from a year ago.
Kentucky Players to Watch:
Arin Gilliland – Forward/Defender
Kelli Hubly – Forward
Courtney Raetzman – Midfielder
• The Tigers return their top two goal scorers from a year ago as junior midfielder Alex Arlitt and sophomore winger Fernanda Pina each netted four goals to guide the offensive attack during the 2012 season. Pina also dished out four assist to tie as the team's leading point scorer with 12 points during her freshman season.
• The Tigers feature senior leadership on each level of the field as they will be guided by the likes of midfielder Alex Ramsey, defender Addie Eggleston and goalkeeper Megan Kinneman during the 2013 season.
• The Tigers are also excited to welcome one of the nation's premier recruiting classes to campus this fall as each of the five members of their Class of 2013 have earned starting experience at the FIFA Women's World Cup at the Under-17 and Under-20 levels. They welcome midfielder Natalia Gomez-Junco (Mexico), striker Summer Clarke (Canada), midfielder Emma Fletcher (Canada), left back Megan Lee (New Zealand) and center back Rebecca Pongetti (Canada).
LSU Players to Watch:
Megan Kinneman – Goalkeeper
Alex Arlitt – Midfielder
• Ole Miss returns 16 letter-winners and nine starters from the 2012 team that advanced to the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament and posted the best start in school history at 8-0.
• Returning to help lead the Rebels are 2012 All-SEC performers Rafaelle Souza and Mandy McCalla, who tied for the league lead a year ago in goals (13) and points (33).
• Junior Kelly McCormick returns in goal for the Rebels after posting eight shutout victories a year ago, including a stretch of four consecutive shutouts and a school record 483 consecutive shutout minutes in goal.
• The Rebels' returning players in 2013 accounted for 41-of-45 goals scored a year ago as part of a team that welcomed 10 newcomers to the squad. Ole Miss also adds nine new players, including seven All-State selections, to the roster for the upcoming season.
Ole Miss Players to Watch:
Rafaelle Souza – Forward
Mandy McCalla – Forward/Midfielder
Erin Emerson – Midfielder
Kelly McCormick – Goalkeeper
• Mississippi State begins the Aaron Gordon era Aug. 16 when it hosts South Florida in an Aug. 16 exhibition match. His tenure as the Bulldogs' fourth head coach officially starts Aug. 23 when the team travels to South Alabama.
• The Bulldogs return six starters from last year's squad, including second team All-SEC selection Elisabeth Sullivan. Sullivan enters her senior season the school's career goals leader, a mark she set in last year's 3-2 win against Ole Miss. Sullivan needs four points to tie the career points lead, and three to take second place in assists.
• In addition to Sullivan, State also returns a goal-scoring threat in junior Amy Hoover. Hoover finished 2012 third on the squad with nine points on four goals and an assist.
• State also returns a veteran back line led by senior Morganne Grimes, junior Shannen Jainudeen and sophomore Shelby Jordan. The Dawgs feature a talented class of 10 newcomers. Grimes enters her final season having played and started in all but one match in her MSU career.
Mississippi State Players to Watch:
Elisabeth Sullivan – Forward
Morganne Grimes – Defender
Shannen Jainudeen – Defender
• Mizzou returns 15 letterwinners and eight starters from last season's 14-7-1 squad that earned the program's fifth NCAA Tournament berth. The team's 14 wins a year ago are the second-most in program history.
• The Tigers also return three players who earned All-SEC honors and two who received All-NSCAA All-South Region accolades. Seniors Alyssa Diggs and Dominique Richardson were both All-SEC first team selections in 2012, while Candace Johnson earned a spot on the All-Freshman Team. Richardson was named to the NSCAA All-South Region second team and Diggs was selected to the third team.
• Redshirt junior goalkeeper McKenzie Sauerwein anchors the Missouri defense for the third straight season. She has started 41 games the past two seasons and boasts a career goals against average of 1.18.
• Head Coach Bryan Blitz enters his 18th season at the helm of the Tigers and owns a 188-149-18 record with the team.
Missouri Players to Watch:
Alyssa Diggs – Forward
Dominique Richardson – Midfielder
McKenzie Sauerwein – Goalkeeper
Candace Johnson – Defender
• Twenty letterwinners, including nine starters from last season's squad, are joined by 11 newcomers for the 2013 season. South Carolina returns 84.5 percent of their scoring from 2012, including senior Danielle Au who led the Gamecocks in points and goals.
• Junior goalkeeper Sabrina D'Angelo, a two-time All-SEC honoree and the 2011 SEC Freshman and Co-Defensive Player of the Year, will anchor the Gamecock defense for the third-consecutive year. In two seasons, she has a 0.99 GAA in 38 games played, posting 130 saves and seven shutouts. D'Angelo was named the 2012 Canadian U-20 Female Player of the Year.
• In her 13th season as South Carolina's head coach, Shelley Smith is aiming for a sixth NCAA Tournament appearance in seven years. Smith is 138-89-32 at South Carolina.
South Carolina Players to Watch:
Sabrina D'Angelo – Goalkeeper
Danielle Au – Forward
Elizabeth Sinclair – Midfielder
Christa Neary – Defender
• Tennessee heads into its second season under head coach Brian Pensky with 17 returning players from a 2012 team that went 14-5-3, took third in the SEC with a 9-3-1 league mark and finished 18th in the final NCAA Women's Soccer RPI.
• UT returns its top two points leaders (17 each) in junior Hannah Wilkinson, a 2013 NSCAA All-American and first team All-SEC honoree, and senior Caroline Brown. Wilkinson's eight goals in just 16 games played led the team and Brown paced the squad with seven assists to go with five goals.
• Tennessee boasted one of the nation's elite defenses last season. The team's 0.69 goals-against average set a new program record and the Lady Vols recorded 11 shutouts. UT also produced the longest shutout streak in school history with 533:22 of scoreless defense from Aug. 19 through Sept. 9.
• The Lady Vols will feature 17 newcomers on this year's team. With the graduation of NSCAA All-Region and second team All-SEC pick Ali Hall and fellow 2012 starters Amy Harrison (six goals, one assist) and Kylie Bono (five goals, six assists), Tennessee has three major spots to fill on the field.
Tennessee Players to Watch:
Hannah Wilkinson – Forward
Caroline Brown – Midfielder/Forward
Tori Bailey – Midfielder/Defender
Allie Sirna – Defender
• Head Coach G Guerrieri enters his 21st season at the helm of A&M soccer and is the only head coach in program history. Guerrieri and North Carolina's Anson Dorrance are the only two head coaches to appear in every NCAA Tournament since 1995.
• A&M earned its 18th-consecutive NCAA Tournament berth in 2012, ending their season at 19-5-1 after making the 11th Sweet Sixteen appearance in school annals. The Aggies are one of five teams to make it to every NCAA Championship since 1995. The other schools include North Carolina (1982-2012), Notre Dame (1993-2012), Virginia (1994-2012) and Penn State (1995-2012).
• Texas A&M owns a 181-27-5 (.860) all-time record at Ellis Field (formerly Aggie Soccer Stadium). The Maroon and White have called the field home since the 1994 season, playing the inaugural 1993 season at Old Tiger Field. Since 2005, the Aggies have registered a 81-11-4 (.863) mark on the friendly pitch.
• Texas A&M's 19 wins in 2012 was one shy of the school record of 20 set in 2002 (20-5-1).
• The Aggies return seven 2012 starters and four All-SEC selections, including first-teamers Jordan Day (GK), Meghan Streight (MF) and Annie Kunz (F) and second-teamer Shea Groom (F). Kelley Monogue, who was also titled the Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year and the Big 12 Rookie of the Year in 2011, is back to full health after recovering from a leg injury in 2012.
Texas A&M Players to Watch:
Jordan Day – Goalkeeper
Shea Groom – Forward
Annie Kunz – Forward
Rachel Lenz – Defender
Kelley Monogue - Forward
Meghan Streight – Midfielder
• In Head Coach Derek Greene's third season at the helm of the Commodore women's soccer program, his squad returns a total of 192 starts (out of a possible 220 games started last season).
• Last year's freshmen class accounted for 85 of those games started, and the expectation is that those sophomores will be a big part of the team's plans again this year.
• In goal, the Commodores are hopeful that redshirt-junior Alexa Levick, who had three shutouts last year after posting five in her freshman campaign, can build on a successful offseason that included playing the Maccabiah Games in July.
Vanderbilt Players to Watch:
Cheyna Williams – Forward
Erin Myers – Midfielder/Defender