2016 Conf Previews: MVC, Mountain West, OVC

by J.R. Eskilson
August 5, 2016
2016 Conf Previews: MVC, Mountain West, OVC

Missouri Valley Conference

2015 Conference Honors
Conference Tournament Champion: Evansville
Player of the Year: Rebecca Rodgers, Drake
Defensive Player of the Year: Sarah Grace Nicholson, Drake
Goalkeeper of the Year: Brooke Dennis, Drake
Freshman of the Year: Jenna Szczesny, Loyola-Chicago
Coaching Staff of the Year: Drake

Teams (2015 overall, conference record)
Drake (7-9-2, 4-0-2)
Loyola-Chicago (9-7-5, 3-2-2)
Evansville (6-11-3, 3-2-1)
Missouri State (9-7-1, 3-3)
Illinois State (6-10-2, 3-4)
Northern Iowa (7-9-5, 1-3-2)
Indiana State (6-10-1, 1-4-1)

Drake returns the 2015 Player of the Year, 2015 Defensive Player of the Year, and the 2015 Goalkeeper of the Year from the Missouri Valley Conference for the campaign this fall. The trio make the Bulldogs the obvious favorite in the conference, as Drake looks to qualify for the NCAA tournament after missing out on the automatic berth to Evansville, which won the conference tournament. 

The Purple Aces need to replace six seniors from last fall’s squad. The big gap could make this a challenging year for Krista McKendree’s side. The head coach will be counting on Whitney Biggs to lead the charge after the senior goalkeeper won MVC Tournament MVP Honors last season.  

Loyola-Chicago will be asking 2015 Freshman of the Year Jenna Szczesny to help lead the squad to a better finish in 2016 after claiming third last season. Szczesny finished her debut campaign with 15 points and could be one to watch for the future, as Loyola showed promise in 2015. 

Missouri State midfielder Mary Disidore looks to be another one to watch this fall in the Valley. Disidore was the only sophomore to make the MVC First Team All-Conference last season. Sophomore forward Brooke Prondzinski and Disidore could combine to make the Bears one of the top teams in the conference this fall. 

Illinois State is hoping returners Paige Jarsombeck and Lauren Koehl can lead the program to the top half of the conference this fall. Koehl was a first team selection last fall while Jarsombeck made the second team. They look like the cornerstone pieces for the squad for this fall. 

Both Northern Iowa and Indiana State are hoping new coaches at the helm will help to improve the programs this fall. Northern Iowa brought in Chris Logan to steer the ship for the Panthers. Julie Hanley is leading the rebuilding effort for the Sycamores. Hanley was an assistant with Iowa before taking the job at Indiana State. 

Mountain West Conference 

2015 Conference Honors
Conference Tournament Champions: San Jose State
Offensive Player of the Year: Sarah Schweiss, Colorado College
Defensive Player of the Year: Zoe Makrigiannis, San Jose State
Freshman of the Year: Leah Pruitt, San Diego State
Coach of the Year: Lauren Hanson, San Jose State

Teams (2015 overall, conference record)
San Diego State (15-4-1, 10-1)
San Jose State (10-8-4, 8-3)
New Mexico (10-8-2, 7-3-1)
Wyoming (10-6-4, 6-4-1)
Colorado College (9-12-1, 6-5)
UNLV (11-10, 6-5)
Utah State (10-8-2, 5-5-1)
Boise State (7-9-4, 5-5-1)
Fresno State (5-12-1, 4-6-1)
Nevada (6-11-2, 3-7-1)
Air Force (4-14-1, 2-8-1)
Colorado State (3-15-2, 0-10-1)

San Diego State rolled through the regular season in the MWC, but San Jose State claimed the conference’s lone automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament after winning the conference tournament in penalty kicks. After missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2011, the Aztecs are trying to get back into the Big Dance this fall. It won’t be clear sailing though. Last season’s freshman sensation Leah Pruitt transferred to USC in the offseason, which left a big hole in the SDSU attack. With 10 freshman on board, there will be plenty of chances for some of the newcomers this fall. The Aztecs can still rely on Stacie Moran and Milan Moses to help lead the way this season to keep the Southern California side at the top of the standings in 2016. 

San Jose State is trying to keep its title this fall, but the Spartans need to replace star goalkeeper Zoe Makrigiannis and midfielder Darlene Rodriguez, both were seniors last fall. Dorthe Hoppius should be the leader of the group with the Spartans after earning a spot on the Mountain West All-Conference First Team last fall as a sophomore. Head coach Lauren Hanson looks to be the real deal so the Spartans will still be one to watch this fall. 

New Mexico head coach Heather Dyche has a big summer ahead of her. Dyche is headed to Brazil to help the U.S. Soccer Women’s National Team during the 2016 Summer Olympic Games. Dyche’s duties include scouting and analyzing opponents at the tournament. Back in the States, her side is preparing for a difficult start to the season with games against ranked teams during the first two weekends. 

Wyoming forward Shaina Ashouri looks to be one of the top players to watch in teh conference in the fall. Ashouri scored a goal in six of the Cowgirls’ 20 games last season. She finished the campaign with nine goals and seven assists as she helped propel the group to third in the conference. Wyoming will be counting on Alisha Bass, Cassidy Entsminger, and Ashouri to push the team into a top spot in the table this fall. 

Colorado College has a big gap to fill this season, as the Tigers need to replace the conference’s Offensive Player of the Year in Sarah Schweiss. Schweiss scored nearly half of the Tigers’ goals in 2015. Outside of Schweiss, there are eight starters back with the Tigers for the fall. The coaching staff also seems eager to get to work with transfer Tanner Haughn, who could be in line for big minutes in her debut season. 

The Rebels are trying to push their way into the top four of the conference in head coach Chris Shaw’s third season in charge of UNLV. Shaw enjoys the luxury of eight returners to the squad for this fall. Replacing midfielder Denali Murnan will be the key for UNLV to be successful in 2016. 

Utah State’s quest for conference dominance depends on the success of forward Jessica Brooksby, who was a member of the All-Mountain West First-Team last season. She has scored 18 goals in her college career and will be looking to add to that total this season. 

Boise State is hoping that success against San Diego State recently will translate to success against the whole league. The Broncos are the only team that’s had the Aztecs number in conference play - and even then it has been sparingly. Replacing midfielder Brooke Heidemann will be the first order of business for Boise State, as the First Team All-Conference contributor was a senior last fall. 

Myra Delgadillo and Maria Gomez lead the charge for Fresno State. The talented duo make up the creative part of the Fresno State midfield, which is hoping to guide the team to some success in the conference this fall. With seven seniors on the roster for 2016, Nevada is counting on some veteran leadership to help navigate the difficult MWC this fall. Air Force midfielder Angela Karamanos is one to watch this fall after she earned a place on the All-Conference Second Team in 2015. Colorado State is hoping a successful spring will carryover to the fall and get the Rams out of the cellar in the conference. 

Ohio Valley Conference 

2015 Conference Honors
Conference Tournament Champions: Murray State
Offensive Player of the Year: Harriet Withers, Murray State
Defensive Player of the Year: Kari Naerdemann, Tennessee Tech
Freshman of the Year: Abby Timm, Morehead State
Coach of the Year: Jeremy Groves, Murray State

Teams (2015 overall, conference record)
Murray State (16-5, 10-0)
Tennessee Tech (8-8-4, 6-3-1)
Jacksonville State (8-9-2, 5-4-1)
Morehead State (9-11-2, 5-4-1)
UT Martin (7-11-1, 5-4-1)
Southeast Missouri(w) (9-6-7, 3-2-5)
Austin Peay (8-10, 4-6)
Eastern Kentucky (4-14, 4-6)
Belmont (4-12-2, 3-6-1)
SIUE (5-11-3, 2-7-1)
Eastern Illinois (4-13-2, 2-7-1)

Murray State ripped through the Ohio Valley Conference in 2015 and rattled off an 11-game winning streak before ending the dream season in the NCAA Tournament. The key players from 2015 are back again for the Racers. Forward Harriet Withers is back for her junior campaign and the star of the conference. Murray State is not a one-player team. Taylor Richerson, Aaron Lankster, and Ali Critcher all should be in for significant roles this season. 

Tennessee Tech is the closest team to posing a threat to Murray State’s bid to repeat as champions. The Golden Eagles return Defensive Player of the Year Kari Naerdemann, a sophomore goalkeeper from Germany, and First Team All Conference honoree Abigayle Gearing, a senior midfielder. 

Claire Petersen is the headliner among the returners for Jacksonville State. The midfielder from Maine earned a place on the All Conference Second Team last season as a freshman. While Jacksonville State might be looking at a sophomore to lead the way in 2016, Morehead State is counting on the newcomers after recruiting 14 players to join the program this fall. The huge incoming class should raise the level of competition for playing time. 

Maggie Burkett, Saphyra Coombs-James, and Rebecca Starnes should make the UT Martin squad into one of the top teams in the conference this fall. The three returners for the Skyhawks all earned All Conference honors last fall. Angie Mann scored eight goals last season to lead the way for Southeast Missouri. Lauren Kaempfe and Mann are the players to watch for the Redhawks. 

Gina Fabbro’s offensive exploits make Austin Peay one of the teams to fear in the Ohio Valley Conference. Fabbro scored 10 goals in 2015, and now enters her senior campaign with a capable strike partner in McKenzie Dixon, who was a First Team All Conference honoree as a freshman in 2015. Belmont is also counting on some returning talent to lead the way this fall. Goalkeeper Stephanie Bukovec and midfielder Belicia Mendiola headline the returners for Belmont. 

Kassidy Rawdon leads the way for SIUE as the lone conference honoree returning to the suqad. Rawdon, a defender, is entering her senior season. Eastern Kentucky heads into a bit of rebuilding year this fall. Amani Thomas, the only player to make an All Conference team, graduated, which leaves a gap in the group for a leader. Eastern Illinois faces a similar fate as the Panthers search for a leader to help improve the results for the team this fall. 

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