2016 Sun Belt Women’s Soccer Preseason All-Conference Team and Poll Released
August 17, 2016 at 12:55 AM CDT - Updated July 24 at 2:20 PM
NEW ORLEANS – The South Alabama Jaguars, back-to-back Sun Belt women’s soccer regular season champions and three-time tournament champions have been picked as the favorite to win the 2016 team title as voted upon by the league’s 11 head coaches.
The Jaguars went 18-3-2 last season and 9-0-0 in league play. USA faced LSU in first round of the NCAA tournament and defeated the Tigers by a score of 4-0 before falling in the second round to Florida State. Nine starters return for the Jaguars, including junior Chardé Hannah, junior Danielle Henley, junior Steffi Hardy and sophomore Jemma Purfield – all of which were named to the preseason all-conference team.
USA earned 10 of the league’s 11 first-place votes as the Jaguars totaled 120 points in the preseason poll. Troy was picked to finish second with 102 points followed by league-newcomer Coastal Carolina with 86 points.
Troy finished second in the league a season ago with a 14-4-1 record overall and a 6-2-1 mark in league play. The Chanticleers joined the league on July 1, 2016, and will begin their first season of Sun Belt play after finishing 2015 with a 12-7-1 record.
Appalachian State was picked to finish fourth with 81 points and Little Rock rounded out the top five with 77 points. Texas State, Georgia Southern and Georgia State were picked to finish sixth, seventh and eighth, respectively. UL Lafayette came in at No. 9 while Arkansas State and UL Monroe completed the poll.
USA’s Hannah, along with Texas State’s Lauren Prater, were named Preseason Co-Offensive Players of the Year. Hannah led the Jaguars with 11 goals scored in 2015 and 27 points and was named the Sun Belt Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player. Prater, senior, led the Sun Belt in goals scored with 12 and was second in points with 28. She added five assists to go along with her league-leading five game-winning goals.
USA’s Hardy was chosen as the league’s Preseason Defensive Player of the Year and is the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, taking home the award following the 2015 season. Hardy started all 23 games for the Jaguars and led the team in on-field minutes with 2,093. Hardy was the leader of a defense that posted a league-tying 10 shutouts and allowed less than one goal (0.92) per match.
Six of the 11 student-athletes on the preseason all-conference team were first-team selections following the 2015 season while three other student-athletes were named second-team all-conference last season.
The 2016 Sun Belt Conference women’s soccer season begins on Friday, Aug. 19 with all 11 teams getting their campaigns started. The season will conclude on Oct. 25 with the conference tournament scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 2 through Sunday, Nov. 6 at the Foley Sports Tourism Complex in Foley, Ala.
2016 Sun Belt Preseason All-Conference Team Jennifer Wittick (Georgia Southern, Senior, Forward) Yazmin Montoya (UL Lafayette, Senior, Forward) * Chardé Hannah (South Alabama, Junior, Forward) ** Lauren Prater (Texas State, Senior, Forward) ** Caitlyn Eddy (Little Rock, Sophomore, Midfielder) * Suzanne Arafa (Georgia State, Senior, Midfielder) * Danielle Henley (South Alabama, Junior, Midfielder) * Lindsey Tully (Appalachian State, Junior, Defender) * Steffi Hardy (South Alabama, Junior, Defender) ** Jemma Purfield (South Alabama, Sophomore, Defender) * Mikki Lewis (Troy, Junior, Goalkeeper)
2016 Sun Belt Preseason Co-Offensive Players of the Year Chardé Hannah (South Alabama, Sophomore, Forward) Lauren Prater (Texas State, Senior, Forward)
2016 Sun Belt Preseason Defensive Player of the Year Steffi Hardy (South Alabama, Junior, Defender)
2016 Sun Belt Women's Soccer Preseason Poll (first-place votes in parentheses) 1. South Alabama (10) - 120 pts 2. Troy - 102 pts 3. Coastal Carolina - 86 pts 4. Appalachian State - 81 pts 5. Little Rock - 77 pts 6. Texas State - 76 pts 7. Georgia Southern - 53 pts 8. Georgia State - 49 pts 9. UL Lafayette (1) - 46 pts 10. Arkansas State - 20 pts 11. UL Monroe - 16 pts
About the Sun Belt Conference The Sun Belt Conference’s “Together We Rise” motto isn’t just hyperbole. It’s proven fact on many different levels, not the least being its place in the hierarchy of collegiate athletics. The league’s embracing of innovations and advancements, its constant efforts to adapt in the ever-changing world of college athletics, and its continuing process of evolving to better serve its membership has been well documented since the day the conference was founded in 1976.
But one thing hasn’t changed: Since that founding, the Sun Belt Conference has always been a league of opportunity. Athletic and academic programs who have shown progressive thinking and the desire to improve have always found a home in the Sun Belt. For student-athletes, Sun Belt institutions are leaders in providing career services and the tools to assist in the pursuit of personal goals. Sun Belt members all employ full-time academic advisors and have on average more than 20 tutors for academic support. During the 2015-16 academic year, Sun Belt member institutions awarded over $50 million in scholarships to more than 3,100 student-athletes, while also providing life experiences such as team building, domestic and foreign travel, community service, mentoring, and recognition through honors and awards.
The Sun Belt Conference’s membership consists of 11 football members – Appalachian State, Arkansas State, Georgia Southern, Georgia State, Idaho, UL Lafayette, UL Monroe, New Mexico State, South Alabama, Texas State and Troy. Little Rock and UT Arlington compete in all-sports as non-football members while Idaho and New Mexico State are football only members. Coastal Carolina joined the Sun Belt Conference in all sports but football in 2016. The CCU football program will begin Sun Belt play in 2017.