Last season’s Big South title race was a nail biter between four teams, with Radford eventually coming out on top over strong challenges from Winthrop, Campbell and High Point.
Highlander coach Ben Sohrabi told his school web site he expects more of the same in 2012.
“[The] conference is going to be another dog fight,” the conference coach of the year said. “With the new format, everyone will be competing for a top 4 finish to host a first round match in the Big South Tournament. This will make the regular season very interesting for all the teams.”
Following is a closer look at the combatants.
Brief Bio: Big South
2011 League Champions: Radford
2011 Tourney Champions: Radford
Conference Offensive Player of the Year: Courtney Durbin, Winthrop
Conference Defensive Player of the Year: Tyler Drake, Radford
Rookie of the Year: Krystyna Freda, Winthrop
Coach of the Year: Ben Sohrabi, Radford
Teams (Overall/Conference record)
Sohrabi returns some top players from the championship squad, including Sahar Aflaki, Rachel Conway, Sydney Golden, Julia Ruh’e, Mary Wiley, Tyler Drake and Stephanie Herb.
Spencer Smith’s Eagles lose offensive player of the year Courtney Durbin, but return leading goal scorer Krystyna Freda, who took the league by storm last season as just a freshman. Also back are goalkeeper Sarah Schipper, Ashley Herndon, Grace Radler, Megan Pritts and Allie Vandewater.
Todd Clark’s Camels return freshman goalscoring sensation Ashley Clark, who had 11 tallies in 2011. Taylor Brown and Cissy Nitz are other key perofrmers.
High Point 8-10-3/6-2-2)
Marty Beall’s Panthers return and four of the five top scorers and seven starters from 2011, including Janay Whittaker, Kelli Joline, Becca Hemby and Sammy Vercellino.
Jessica Hain’s Flames return a number of top players including Ariana Espinoza, Kelly Henion and Geena Swentik.
Kevin Mounce’s Bulldogs lose top scorer Dawn Rollyson but return Megan Curan, Meagan Reynolds, Ele Margelos, Katie Soles and Addison Abee.
Charleston Southern (9-8-2/4-5-1)
Eric Terrill’s Buccaneers return Rebecca Holstegge, Toni Lashley, Allison Lewis, Morgann Wood, Gina Thomas and Chloe Urig.
UNC Asheville (4-14-1/3-7-0)
The Bulldogs lose Leilani Halkiotis but return Kaitlyn Eckert, Amanda Knapp and Ferriss Roberts from their leading scorers. Heather Muller is back in goal for Michele Demko’s squad, with Erin Ryan in defense.
Brian Purcell returns for his 24th season at the helm of the Blue Hose. Sara Simpson, Rebecca Miller and Alice Blackwell are among key returnees.
Coastal Carolina (2-15-2/2-7-1)
Second-year coach Paul Hogan will look to turn things around for the Chanticleers, who were outscored 40-12 over the season in 2011.
Coach Bryan Williams returns nine starters from last year’s team, including Simone Jimenez and Kacey Hall.
Todd Dyer’s Lancers enter the Big South after a .500 season. Leading returnees to the squad include Kelsey Pardue, Lindsey Ottavio, Kelsey McDonald and Nikki Glisson.