Patriot, Big Sky, Horizon, and SWAC preview

Patriot, Big Sky, Horizon, and SWAC preview
by J.R. Eskilson
August 20, 2013

Patriot League

Brief Conference Bio:

2012 Patriot League Tournament Champion: Colgate
2012 Patriot League regular season champion: Navy
Offensive Player of the Year: Jillian Kinter, Colgate
Defensive Player of the Year: Jade Seabrook, Navy
Goalkeeper of the Year: Caroline Williams, Colgate
Coach of the Year: Carin Gabarra, Navy

Teams (2012 overall/conference record):

American (6-10-3/4-2-1)
Army (8-10/3-4)
Boston University (12-6/8-0*)
Bucknell (10-9/3-4)
Colgate (11-6-4/4-1-2)
Holy Cross (6-11-1/2-5)
Lafayette (4-12-2/1-6)
Lehigh (5-13/3-4)
Loyola (MD) (12-6-4/6-2-1**)
Navy (19-2-1/6-0-1)

Boston University enters the 2013 season in a new conference, but with the same lofty expectations. The coaches and sports information directors in the conference selected the Terriers as the preseason favorites for the Patriot League with good reason too.

Head coach Nancy Feldman brings a decorated, experienced roster to the new conference. Madison Clemens was tabbed as the Preseason Offensive Player of the Year after leading the Terriers with eight goals last season. A trip to the NCAA Tournament is a realistic goal for this squad, which is thirsty for postseason success after politics denied Boston a conference tournament opportunity last season in the America East.

Navy and Colgate were selected to finish behind Boston at second and third, respectively. Both programs garnered four first place votes. Navy returns 2012 Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year Jade Seabrook, who helped the squad to a 19-2-1 record and an appearance in the Patriot League Tournament Championship tilt. Navy also brings back Patriot League Goalkeeper of the Year Elizabeth Hoerner. Despite the hefty number of wins last season, Navy was overlooked for an NCAA Tournament at-large berth. Duplicating that success is the big question for the Navy program, and 2013 did not get off on the best foot with a 5-2 loss to Penn State in the preseason opener.

Colgate is hoping that Patriot League Rookie of the Year Catherine Williams can push the program back to the postseason. She will need to avoid the sophomore slump to keep the Colgate squad in contention in the very competitive Patriot League.

While Boston hogged the headlines, the Terriers are not the only new program this fall in the league. Loyola is also joining the Patriot League after some recent success in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. The Greyhounds will need to find some new pieces in the attack, but do return goalkeeper Did Haracic. The preseason poll pegged Loyola to the fourth spot.

*America East record

** MAAC record

Big Sky

Brief Conference Bio:

2012 Big Sky Tournament Champion: Idaho State
2012 Big Sky regular season champion: Idaho State
Offensive Player of the Year: Amanda Ellsworth, Idaho State and Erin Craig, Montana
Defensive Player of the Year: Lauren Costa, Montana
Goalkeeper of the Year: Natalie D’Adamio, Northern Colorado
Top Newcomer: Chansi Crompton, Weber State
Coach of the Year: Allison Gibson, Idaho State

Teams (2012 overall/conference record):

Eastern Washington (6-8-4/3-3-3)
Idaho State (11-6-3/6-2-1)
Montana (12-6-3/6-2-1)
North Dakota (2-13-1/0-9)
Northern Arizona (5-9-5/3-3-3)
Northern Colorado (6-7-5/4-2-3)
Portland State (9-8-2/6-2-1)
Sacramento State (5-9-4/3-4-2)
Southern Utah (3-11-2/1-7-1)
Weber State (7-10-2/5-3-1)

The 2012 Big Sky conference was a race to the final day with three teams finishing with the same record entering the conference tournament. The coaches think 2013 will be much the same with coaches picking both Idaho State and Portland State as the co-favorites entering the year. Idaho State, Portland State, Montana, Weber State, and Northern Arizona all garnered first place votes from the coaches’ preseason poll.

Idaho State returns Offensive Player of the Amanda Ellsworth as well as Tournament MVP Sheridan Hapsic. The spine of the team is built around those two players who seem well equipped to lift Idaho State to another NCAA Tournament appearance this fall.

Portland State should contend as well with head coach Laura Schott looking to keep the streak alive of never losing more than two games in conference play. The Vikings return six starters from last season including key contributors Kayla Henningsen and Eryn Brown.

Montana, picked to finish third, will be looking for a new keeper this fall to go along with a new goalkeeper coach in Eric Lona. Senior Kendra McMillen is the only player with collegiate experience on the roster. She played a grand total of 39 minutes in 2012 as a backup to Kristen Hoon.

Weber State was pegged as the fourth place squad for 2013 according to the preseason poll, but perhaps that is a bit low for a very experience roster. The Wildcats return 10 starters from last year’s squad, which won five games in the Big Sky.

Will Weber State’s experience be enough for the Wildcats? Or will the Big Sky come down to the final day of play once again?

Horizon League

Brief Conference Bio:

2012 Horizon League Tournament champion: Wisconsin-Milwaukee
2012 Horizon League regular season champion: Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Player of the Year: Helen Steinhauser, Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Offensive Player of the Year: Kaitlyn Quarrell, Detroit
Defensive Player of the Year: Lauren Patterson, Wright State
Newcomer of the Year: Ini Umotong, Wright State
Coach of the Year: Mike Lupenec, Detroit 

Teams (2012 overall/conference record):

Cleveland State (6-11/2-5)
Detroit (9-7-1/5-2)
Wisconsin-Green Bay (5-11-1/2-4-1)
Oakland (11-6-4/6-2-2*)
Wisconsin-Milwaukee (8-9-1/5-2)
Valparaiso (10-6-3/3-2-2)
Wright State (9-5-6/2-2-3)
Youngstown State (8-9/3-4)

Move over Milwaukee, Detroit is on the way up.

The Horizon League has been dominated by Milwaukee for so long that it came as a complete shock another program was picked as the preseason favorite earlier this month.

The Panthers were selected as the preseason favorite 13 seasons in a row in the Horizon League up until this August when Mike Lupenec’s Detroit Titans were given that honor. The Titans return Offensive Player of the Year Kaitlyn Quarrell, who helped the Michigan program to a share of the regular season crown last season. Quarrell, Alyssa Riley, Abby McCollum, and Heather Brown make up the core group of returners for Lumpenec and his staff.

Wright State claimed the second spot in the preseason poll. Allie Metzler and Brooke McCurdy highlight the list of returners for the Raiders, which finished their season in the Horizon League Tournament Championship with a double overtime loss to Milwaukee.

The Panthers were pegged in the third spot, but its hard to imagine a Horizon season without the Panthers in the race for the top spot late in the season. Kelly Lewers, Kelsey Holbert, Krissy Dorre, and Amy Kauffung make up the core fo the returning group for Milwaukee.

New addition Oakland came in at fourth in the preseason poll. The Golden Grizzlies are hoping to carry over the success from the Summit League to the Horizon League. Kyla Kellerman, the 2012 Summit League Offensive Player of the Year, leads the charge for Oakland this fall in the new digs.

*Summit League record


Brief Conference Bio:

2012 SWAC Champions: Mississippi Valley
Player of the Year: Sierra Ardnt, Grambling State
Defensive Player of the Year: Florence Onyera, Texas Southern
Freshman of the Year: Anastasia McCleary, Alabama State 

Teams (2012 overall/conference record):

Alabama A&M (5-12-1/3-1)
Alabama State (6-8-2/2-2)
Alcorn State (1-10/0-4)
Arkansas Pine Bluff (6-14-2/2-2-1)
Grambling State (2-10/2-3)
Jackson State (MS) (7-10-1/5-3-1)
Mississippi Valley (8-10-2/2-1-1)
Prairie View A&M (9-11/3-1)
Southern University (1-11-1/1-3)
Texas Southern (6-13/2-2)

There were two clear favorites in the preseason poll of the SWAC coaches with Mississippi Valley State and Prairie View A&M picked to win the Eastern and Western Divisions respectively.

Shanesse Spratt, Nykosi Simmons, Bianca Vigliante, and Hailey Beekman are the key pieces for Mississippi Valley State this fall in its bid to claim the automatic NCAA Tournament bid from the SWAC.

Deborah Arguelles leads the charge for Prairie View A&M, as it strides for the Western Division title in 2013. Arguelles was picked as the Co-Defensive Player of the Year in the preseason poll along with Arkansas-Pine Bluff’s Alyssa Cobbs.

The coaches tabbed Alexandria Cannon, Alabama State forward, as the Offensive Player of the Year. Cannon lead the league in goals last season with 12. She scored nine in 2011. The Hornets attack figures to be just as lethal this fall with her at the point. Alabama State was picked to finish third in the Eastern Division in the SWAC preseason poll.

Even though there were favorites from the preseason poll, nearly every program garnered a first place vote, which shows that this conference is open for the taking in 2013.

Who will emerge from the pack?

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