Winners of six-straight Atlantic Sun Regular Season Championships, the FGCU women's soccer team begins another season with title-winning expectations. The Eagles were voted to win the ASUN by the conference's coaches in the annual preseason poll, while Tabby Tindell was voted the ASUN's Preseason Player of the Year the conference announced Wednesday afternoon. This announcement comes a week after FGCU received five votes in the NSCAA National Preseason Poll.
For the third time in as many seasons, Tindell (Ocala, Fla./Trinity Catholic HS) earns the preseason nod after winning consecutive ASUN Player of the Year awards. The senior headlines a list of six total Preseason All-Conference selections.
"This is a great honor for these girls to gain preseason recognition, not only as individuals but as a team," said head coach Jim Blankenship. "But we know nothing is won in the preseason. It's not about where you start but where you finish. We'll need to be playing at our best in November in order to make it back to the NCAA Tournament."
Joining Tindell on the Preseason All-Conference Team are fellow Eagles Camille Knudstrup (Lakeland, Fla./George Jenkins HS), Ashley Parks (St. Louis, Mo./Lafayette HS), Nikki Hudson (Baltimore, Md./Roland Park County School/Rutgers), Ali Rogers (Naples, Fla./Gulf Coast HS), and Paulina Speckmaier (Miami, Fla./Gulliver Prep/Florida).
As FGCU's all-time leader in both goals scored (52) and points (126), Tindell is the early favorite to win the honor for what would be the third time in her career. Now a senior, Tindell was a unanimous selection as the Preseason Player of the Year and Preseason All-Conference selection. Despite missing three matches, the Ocala-native netted 17 goals and added a career-high 10 assists. Tindell now has her sights set on the ASUN career goals record which has stood since 1995. Tindell is nine goals shy of the conference goal mark and 22 points shy of tying the all-time points record.
An All-Freshman Team selection a season ago, Knudstrup returns to the FGCU backline with 21 starts already to her name. Knudstrup recorded a goal and four assists in her first year in Southwest Florida while helping the Eagles post one of the best defensive seasons in program and conference history. FGCU allowed only 13 goals in 2015, the fifth-best season in ASUN history and the second-best at FGCU.
After missing the bulk of 2015 with an injury, Parks returns to the field to fill the void left by graduating senior Emma Blackwell (Jenks, Okla./Jenks HS). Parks featured in just four matches last year, a span of time where FGCU did not allow a single goal, posting a 3-0-1 record. Parks assisted on four goals in 2014, her first season after moving from midfield to defense.
Hudson made an immediate impact for FGCU after transferring from Rutgers. The midfielder started 21 matches and scored a career-high five goals to earn First Team All-Conference honors. Just four games into the season, Hudson tallied FGCU's second goal of the match against LIU Brooklyn for the first goal of her career. Hudson's final tally of the year came against Lipscomb in the ASUN Championship match, helping secure a fourth trip to the NCAA Tournament and pave the way for FGCU's first NCAA Tournament victory.
Filling in for the aforementioned Parks at times last season, Rogers showed her versatility playing in the midfield and along the backline for the Green and Blue in 2015. The redshirt-senior is coming off of a career-year with three goals and three assists including two match-winners. Rogers' final assist of the season came in the ASUN Championship where her cross found the head of Tindell, who buried her chance to put FGCU in front 1-0. The Eagles would not look back from that point, going on to win 5-0.
An award-winner in each of her first three seasons in Southwest Florida, Speckmaier had one of her best seasons in an historic 2015 for FGCU women's soccer. After scoring eight goals her sophomore season, the midfielder scored six as a junior and assisted on seven more, placing her second on the team in both goals and points. Perhaps her most memorable goal from 2015 came in the First Round of the NCAA Tournament with FGCU searching for its first tournament win in program history. With the match tied, Speckmaier stepped into the spotlight, converting a penalty kick to put FGCU in front 2-1. The match would end with the same scoreline.
As a team, the Eagles garnered 63 total points and seven of the eight first place votes, with Lipscomb earning the fine vote. FGCU finished seven points in front of Lipscomb, who finished the voting with 56 points. Jacksonville finished third in the preseason poll with 43 points followed closely by Stetson with 40 points. In fifth, Kennesaw State earned 32 points, followed by UNF with 28 points. USC Upstate (14 points) and NJIT (12) rounded out the preseason poll.
FGCU opens the 2016 season in San Francisco, meeting San Francisco (Aug. 19) and UC Davis (Aug. 21) out West. When FGCU returns home, the Green and Blue welcome two high-profile opponents. The home slate kicks off with a match against 22-time national champion and current nationally-ranked No. 9 North Carolina on Aug. 26 at 7 p.m. The weekend concludes with yet another ranked foe, No. 23 Ohio State Aug. 28 at 6 p.m. Tickets for every FGCU home match are currently on sale and can be purchased by visiting FGCUTickets.com or by calling the FGCU Ticket Office at 239-590-7145.