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SoCon, Southland women’s conf. previews

Article Written by J.R. Eskilson
Published: July 31, 2014

Southern Conference

Conference Tournament Champion: Furman
Conference Player of the Year: Nicole Dennion, Elon
Freshman of the Year: Carlie Couch, Furman
Coach of the Year: Andrew Burr, Furman

Team (2013 overall/conference record)

  1. Furman (17-4-2/8-1-1)
  2. UNC Greensboro (10-6-4/5-2-3)
  3. Samford (13-6-2/5-3-2)
  4. Wofford (8-5-6/4-2-4)
  5. Western Carolina (10-9-1/4-6)
  6. The Citadel (5-11-2/3-7)
  7. UT Chattanooga (5-13/0-10)
  8. East Tennessee State (7-9-2/3-5-1)*
  9. Mercer (10-8-3/4-3-2)*
  10. VMI (3-15/0-10)*

*=new addition to conference

Conference realignment is a cruel beast, and it took its toll on the Southern Conference (SoCon). Furman sticks around, but Elon, the second best team in the conference last season, is gone. The replacements are programs looking for solid footing in Mercer, East Tennessee State, and VMI.

Stephanie DeVita still rules the roost in SoCon. The uber-talented Furman striker scored 34 goals in her first two college seasons. She was the conference tournament MVP last season and was rightfully rewarded with a call-up to the U.S. U20 Women’s National Team.

The Paladins are not a one-trick pony though. Carlie Couch burst onto the scene last year as the Robin to Devita’s Batman. Couch, as a freshman, scored 12 goals and earned freshman of the year honors. Furman coach Andrew Burr is recruiting quality players and building a program for the future in South Carolina.

Spencer Valdespino, Southeastern Louisiana, college soccerSpencer Valdespino

The rest of the conference is trying to keep up. Samford added a promising recruiting class and enjoyed a productive spring season, which it hopes will help challenge Furman for the top billing in the conference. UNCG bolstered its roster through the transfer market with Chloe Buehler jumping ship from Penn State to the Spartans. Slowing down Furman’s potent attack will priority number one for the Spartans and the rest of the conference in 2014.

Southland 

Conference Tournament Champion: Southeastern Louisiana
Conference Player of the Year: Spencer Valdespino, Nicholls State(w)
Freshman of the Year: Hope Sabadash, Southeastern Louisiana
Newcomer of the Year: Kaily Cox, Oral Roberts
Coach of the Year: Wally Crittenden, Stephen F. Austin

Team (2013 overall/conference record)

  1. Stephen F. Austin (16-3-3/10-1-1)
  2. Southeastern Louisiana (14-4-5/8-2-2)
  3. Abilene Christian (13-5-1/7-5)
  4. Nicholls State(w) (12-6-2/6-5-1)
  5. Central Arkansas (9-10-2/6-6)
  6. Sam Houston State (9-11-1/6-6)
  7. Northwestern State (7-11-1/5-6-1)
  8. Incarnate Word (10-6-3/4-5-3)
  9. Lamar(w) (7-10-2/4-6-2)
  10. Houston Baptist (5-12-2/4-7-1)
  11. McNeese State (6-12-2/1-10-1)
  12. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (2-16/1-11)

Stephen F. Austin rolled through the regular season last year in the Southland, but Southeastern Louisiana earned the invite to the Big Dance via the automatic bid for the conference tournament champion. The Lady Lions were quickly bounced for the national tournament though, as Nebraska pushed past the Southland champs 4-0 in the first round.

There is reason to be optimistic about the conference this fall. The majority of the All-Southland First Team returns, including conference player of the year Spencer Valdespino. The junior forward scored 16 goals last season for Nicholls State(w).

Southland powerhouse Stephen F. Austin only loses four players from last year’s squad, which makes the Texas squad an early favorite in the conference. Games against Texas A&M and Arkansas in August will be a good test for just how strong this Stephen F. Austin group is this year.

 
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