Women’s college soccer starts for real on Friday night. Of course, we’ve been talking about it in detail for the past month. Here is a collection of our conference previews and league title predictions from ESNN staff members. Just scroll down..
Caroline Yort: Hartford
J.R. Eskilson: Hartford
Robert Ziegler: Boston University
Travis Clark: Boston University
Blurb: Because of Boston’s switch to the Patriot League, the team has been ruled out of competing in the conference tournament, but the Terriers should have the firepower to snag the regular season honors. Hartford won’t go down without a fight, of course.
America East preview
Caroline Yort: La Salle
J.R. Eskilson: Dayton
Robert Ziegler: Dayton
Travis Clark: Richmond
Blurb: The addition of VCU to this group is surely to be an intriguing move, as the rising program fared well in the CAA last year and will now get used to new competition. However, the repeat of La Salle wouldn’t be a shock, and Richmond is likely to find a way to stay in the mix as well.
Caroline Yort: Duke
J.R. Eskilson: North Carolina
Robert Ziegler: Wake Forest
Travis Clark: Wake Forest
Blurb: Who emerges on top this fall in the ACC? It’s going to be another doozy of a season once again, and it looks difficult to separate the traditional powers -- both Duke and Wake Forest enter with nearly their entire starting lineup returning, while Florida State and North Carolina both looking dangerous and lurking in the background.
Caroline Yort: Jacksonville
J.R. Eskilson: East Tennessee State
Robert Ziegler: East Tennessee State
Travis Clark: Florida Gulf Coast(w)
Blurb: Florida Gulf Coast, East Tennessee State and Jacksonville ended in a 3-way tie for last year’s regular season crown, with the Eagles prevailing. Each team figures to be strong again and North Florida will be knocking on the title door as well.
Atlantic Sun Preview
Caroline Yort: West Virginia
J.R. Eskilson: Oklahoma State
Robert Ziegler: Oklahoma State
Travis Clark: West Virginia
Blurb: Texas A&M and Missouri leave, but West Virginia and TCU enter. The Mountaineers will be strong contenders for the title, while Oklahoma State looks retain national title contender status despite some key departures. Kansas and Baylor will also be good and a number of new coaches arriving promise to help make the conference title race an interesting one indeed.
Big 12 Preview
Caroline Yort: Louisville (National), Marquette (American)
J.R. Eskilson: Notre Dame (National), Marquette (American)
Robert Ziegler: Notre Dame (National), Marquette (American)
Travis Clark: Rutgers (National), Marquette (American)
Blurb: It should be another entertaining race to the top of the Big East, with quite the talent swell coming into the conference ranks. Notre Dame should be improved and will make things all the more interesting, although expectations are high for Marquette as well as Louisville
Big East Preview
Caroline Yort: Montana
J.R. Eskilson: Portland State
Robert Ziegler: Sacramento State
Travis Clark: Northern Colorado
Blurb: One of the most difficult conferences to predict, travel demands of this particular conference make it a particularly tough nut to crack. As you can see, expect to see one of Montana, Northern Colorado, or even Portland State to capture the regular season title.
Big Sky Preview
Caroline Yort: Winthrop
J.R. Eskilson: Campbell
Robert Ziegler: Campbell
Travis Clark: Radford
Blurb: Radford, Campbell, Winthrop and High Point staged an epic battle for the title in 2011. Expect more of the same in 2012, but watch for the Liberty Flames to get in on the action as well.
Big South Preview
Caroline Yort: Illinois
J.R. Eskilson: Illinois
Robert Ziegler: Penn State
Travis Clark: Penn State
Blurb: Penn State is pursuing its 15th consecutive regular season championship. They have another strong team this year, but will be challenged by the likes of Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, Michigan State and Ohio State. One coach says the quality of the leage from top to bottom is as good as it has ever been.
Big Ten Preview
Caroline Yort: UC Irvine
J.R. Eskilson: Long Beach State
Robert Ziegler: UC Irvine
Travis Clark: Long Beach State
Blurb: The Big West looks like a two-team race with Long Beach State and UC Irvine as the clear cut favorites from the group.
Big West Preview
Caroline Yort: William & Mary
J.R. Eskilson: William & Mary
Robert Ziegler: William & Mary
Travis Clark: James Madison
Blurb: The consensus pick here is William & Mary, which enters the season as favorites across many levels.
Caroline Yort: Memphis
J.R. Eskilson: Memphis
Robert Ziegler: Colorado College
Travis Clark: Memphis
Blurb: How Memphis recovers from significant talent losses is going to dictate how the conference race goes, while Colorado College is going to be as strong as ever in trying to grab the top spot.
Caroline Yort: Houston Baptist
J.R. Eskilson: Utah Valley
Robert Ziegler: Houston Baptist
Travis Clark: Utah Valley
Blurb: Utah Valley won every award in the conference last season, but both Houston Baptist and South Carolina State are confident they have the pieces to win the league this season.
Caroline Yort: Detroit(w)
J.R. Eskilson: Detroit(w)
Robert Ziegler: Detroit(w)
Travis Clark: Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Blurb: Can UWM repeat as champions with a new coach and a roster that no longer includes goal-scoring sensation Sarah Hagen, now at Bayern Munich? The Panthers think so, but 2012 could be a highly competitive race,with high-scoring Detroit, along with Valparaiso, Cleveland State and Wright State all looking to mount title challenges.
Caroline Yort: Harvard
J.R. Eskilson: Harvard
Robert Ziegler: Yale
Travis Clark: Penn
Blurb: It’s hard to separate teams in the Ivy League, and while Harvard has enjoyed a strong run of late, it’s likely that Penn, Yale and perhaps even Princeton can all make a run at first place in the Ivy League.
Ivy League Preview
Caroline Yort: Loyola (MD)
J.R. Eskilson: Marist
Robert Ziegler: Niagara
Travis Clark: Loyola (MD)
Blurb: Nicole Schiro and Loyola (MD) desperately want to get back to the NCAA Tournament, but there are a number of challengers in the MAAC that want to stop the Greyhounds.
Caroline Yort: Central Michigan
J.R. Eskilson: Miami (OH)
Robert Ziegler: Toledo
Travis Clark: Toledo
Blurb: Toledo hopes to repeat as champions, but can expect strong challenges from Central Michigan and Miami, as well as Buffalo.
Caroline Yort: Illinois State
J.R. Eskilson: Missouri State
Robert Ziegler: Missouri State
Travis Clark: Illinois State
Blurb: It was a dream year for Illinois State, as the Redbird offense fired the team to the top spot. That looks just as likely again, although Creighton and Missouri State look most likely to compete.
Caroline Yort: New Mexico
J.R. Eskilson: New Mexico
Robert Ziegler: San Diego State
Travis Clark: New Mexico
Blurb: Eventually, New Mexico’s dominance in the Mountain West Conference will come to an end, but not many are predicting it to be this year.
Mountain West Preview
Caroline Yort: St. Francis (PA)(w)
J.R. Eskilson: LIU Brooklyn(w)
Robert Ziegler: St. Francis (PA)(w)
Travis Clark: LIU Brooklyn(w)
Blurb: There’s a lot of talent back at St. Francis (PA)(w), and it’s going to take quite the effort to hold off rising programs like LIU Brooklyn(w) and Monmouth.
Caroline Yort: SIU-Edwardsville(w)
J.R. Eskilson: UT Martin
Robert Ziegler: Southeast Missouri State
Travis Clark: SIU-Edwardsville(w)
Blurb: Last year, UT Martin won the conference tournament and Southeast Missouri State won the league. The two figure to be battling it out for top honors again this season.
Caroline Yort: Stanford
J.R. Eskilson: Stanford
Robert Ziegler: Stanford
Travis Clark: Stanford
Blurb: Stanford, UCLA, and Oregon State are all dealing with players spending the start of the season in Japan at the U20 Women’s World Cup, but the defending champions get the preseason nod due to depth.
Caroline Yort: Navy
J.R. Eskilson: Colgate
Robert Ziegler: Navy
Travis Clark: Lafayette
Blurb: Another conference where little separates the teams at the top, the Colgate, Lafayette and Navy are amongst those likely to challenge for the top spot in what is a rapidly improving league.
Patriot League Preview
Caroline Yort: Florida
J.R. Eskilson: Texas A&M
Robert Ziegler: Texas A&M
Travis Clark: Texas A&M
Blurb: Texas A&M and Missouri enter to expand the conference to 14. A single round robin format promises many twists and turns in a grueling title race. Florida and the Aggies figure to be strong contenders, but South Carolina, Georgia and LSU are among other teams who will be looking for conference glory.
Caroline Yort: Furman
J.R. Eskilson: College of Charleston
Robert Ziegler: Samford
Travis Clark: Samford
Blurb: Samford, UNC-Greensboro and Furman all look to mount strong title challenges in the 2012 Conference race. Replacing all-everything goalkeeper Alyssa Whitehead will be a big factor in the title hopes of Samford.
Caroline Yort: Sam Houston State
J.R. Eskilson: Stephen F. Austin
Robert Ziegler: Stephen F. Austin
Travis Clark: Stephen F. Austin
Blurb: Tony Amato’s Stephen F Austin team should be strong favorites,with South Africa Olympian Kylie Louw returning to the fold. With UT San Antonio and Texas State departing for the WAC, it’s hard to imagine the Ladyjacks not winning it all, but that, as the saying goes, is why they play the games.
Caroline Yort: Arkansas Pine Bluff
J.R. Eskilson: Arkansas Pine Bluff
Robert Ziegler: Arkansas Pine Bluff
Travis Clark: Arkansas Pine Bluff
Blurb: Rohan Naraine is the new coach of the Golden Lions, but Arkansas-Pine Bluff figures to be the prohibitive favorite for the conference title again this season.
Caroline Yort: North Dakota State
J.R. Eskilson: North Dakota State
Robert Ziegler: Oakland
Travis Clark: South Dakota State
Blurb: South Dakota State, Oakland and North Dakota State were the top teams last season and it looks like 2012 could be a repeat of that. Nebraska-Omaha is a new arrival, replacing Oral Roberts, who left for the SWAC.
Caroline Yort: North Texas
J.R. Eskilson: Western Kentucky
Robert Ziegler: Middle Tennessee
Travis Clark: Florida International
Blurb: With Denver’s exit, there is an opportunity for a program to step up and take control of the Sun Belt in 2012. The divided opinions of the ESNN staff show just how open the race will be this fall.
Sun Belt Preview
West Coast Conference
Caroline Yort: St. Mary's (CA)
J.R. Eskilson: Santa Clara
Robert Ziegler: Pepperdine
Travis Clark: Santa Clara
Blurb: Santa Clara was picked as the preseason favorite by the conference’s coaches, but there was very little room between the top five teams in the conference last season.
Caroline Yort: Denver
J.R. Eskilson: Denver
Robert Ziegler: UT San Antonio(w)
Travis Clark: UT San Antonio(w)
Blurb: The Western Athletic Conference is welcoming in some new members this season with Denver, Texas State, and UT San Antonio(w) joining the mix, but don’t forget about former champ Utah State.