NEW ORLEANS (SunBeltSports.org) - A year after claiming the program's first-ever women's soccer title, the South Alabama Jaguars were picked as the 2014 preseason favorite by the league's ten head coaches. USA claimed nine of the ten first-place votes and led all teams with 98 points.
The Jaguars return five starters from last year's championship squad and nine letter-winners. USA finished the 2013 campaign with a 5-2-1 SBC record and a 14-6-3 record overall.
The UL Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns were picked to finish second with 81 points. The Cajuns received the other first-place vote. Georgia State checks in at No. 3 with 73 points followed by Texas State at No. 4 with 67 points. League newcomer Appalachian State was picked to finish fifth with 59 points.
GSU's Ashley Nagy was named the league's Preseason Offensive Player of the Year while Grace Howell-Harries of the Ragin' Cajuns was chosen as the league's Preseason Defensive Player of the Year.
Both Nagy and Howell-Harries were First-Team All-Conference selections in 2013, with Howell-Harries being named the league's Defensive Player of the Year. Nagy played in 14 matches last season leading the Panthers with eight goals and 19 points. In league play, Nagy was second in the conference with seven goals and ranked third in points with 15.
Howell-Harries was the heart and soul of the Cajuns defense in 2013 and the team will look to her again for her dominate play on the pitch. Howell-Harries played every minute in every match last season and has done so for the past two seasons. Her defense in 2013 helped the Cajuns hold opponents to 23 goals, the fewest in program history.
The Cajuns led all teams with three total selections to the Preseason All-Conference team. Joining Howell-Harries are Annika Schmidt and Yazmin Montoya.
Arkansas State, GSU, USA and Texas State placed two selections each on the preseason team.
The top eight teams at the conclusion of the regular season will earn a spot in the 2014 Sun Belt Women's Soccer Championship, hosted by South Alabama, November 5-9. The 2014 season officially kicks off on Friday, August 22.
*Loren Mitchell (Arkansas State, Junior, Forward)
*Ashley Nagy (Georgia State, Junior, Forward)
**Annika Schmidt (UL Lafayette, Sophomore, Forward)
**Lynsey Curry (Texas State, Junior, Forward)
*Yazmin Montoya (UL Lafayette, Sophomore, Midfielder)
Samhia Simao (Arkansas State, Senior, Midfielder)
Monique Autmon (South Alabama, Sophomore, Midfielder)
*Grace Howell-Harries (UL Lafayette, Senior, Defender)
Nini Rabsatt-Smith (South Alabama, Junior, Defender)
Brenna Smith (Texas State, Senior, Defender)
Brie Haynes (Georgia State, Sophomore, Goalkeeper)
* - denotes 2013 First-Team All-Conference | ** - denotes 2013 Second-Team All-Conference
Ashley Nagy (Georgia State, Junior, Forward)
Grace Howell-Harries (UL Lafayette, Senior, Defender)
1. South Alabama (9) - 98pts
2. UL Lafayette (1) - 81pts
3. Georgia State - 73pts
4. Texas State - 67pts
5. Appalachian State - 59pts
6. Arkansas State - 54pts
7. Troy - 46pts
8. Georgia Southern - 30pts
9. UALR - 26pts