Denver picked to repeat as women's soccer champs

Denver midfielder Hannah Adler is the top returning goal scorer for The Summit League after tallying nine as a sophomore in 2017.
Denver midfielder Hannah Adler is the top returning goal scorer for The Summit League after tallying nine as a sophomore in 2017.

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – In what is anticipated to be another highly-contested race for The Summit League women's soccer crown, the league's nine head coaches selected Denver to be holding up the trophy at the end of the 2018 season. The Pioneers will have to replace 2017 Offensive Player of the Year Jessie Dancy, but return Freshman of the Year Meg Halvorson and first-team midfielder Hannah Adler to anchor a squad that finished 11-9-1 a year ago.

With 61 total points, DU edged out last year's regular-season champion South Dakota State (57 points) for the top spot in this year's preseason coaches' poll. The Jackrabbits, who went undefeated during the 2017 regular season, will look to take the tournament title back from the Pioneers after losing it for the first time since 2013. SDSU will host this year's postseason event Nov. 2 and 4 in Brookings.

First-year head coach Brock Thompson led SDSU's undefeated march through the 2017 regular-season slate and earned coach of the year honors for his efforts. Thompson returns a stout defense led by Defensive Player of the Year Annie Williams and Goalkeeper of the Year Maggie Smither.

Last season, DU finished in a three-way tie for second along with Oral Roberts and North Dakota State at 5-2, but earned the No. 2 seed at the postseason event in Fargo and defeated the fourth-seeded Bison 2-1 in the title match.

Those top-four finishers make up the top half of the 2018 preseason poll once again with the Golden Eagles (49 points) coming in third and the Bison (46 points) coming in fourth.

Newcomer North Dakota was picked to finish fifth. The Fighting Hawks (30 points) arrive in their new league coming off a 2017 campaign that saw first-year head coach Chris Logan earn Big Sky Coach of the Year honors after leading UND to several Division I milestones and a 6-8-4 finish.

South Dakota (29 points), Omaha (28 points) filled the sixth and the seventh spots, respectively, while Western Illinois and Purdue Fort Wayne tied for eighth (12 points) to round out the poll.

2018 Summit League Women's Soccer Preseason Coaches Poll

Rank

School

Points (1st)

2017 Record (SL)

1.

Denver

61 (6)

11-9-1 (5-2, 15 pts.)

2.

South Dakota State

57 (3)

11-5-3 (7-0, 21 pts.)

3.

Oral Roberts

49  

8-10-1 (5-2, 15 pts.)

4.

North Dakota State

46  

8-11 (5-2, 15 pts.)

5.

North Dakota

30

6-8-4 (4-5-1, 13 pts.) Big Sky

6.

South Dakota

29

4-13 (2-5, 6 pts.)

7.

Omaha

28

6-10-1 (3-4, 9 pts.)

8.

Purdue Fort Wayne

12

1-17 (0-7, 0 pts.)

8.

Western Illinois

12

2-15 (1-6, 3 pts.)

#SummitWSOC Preseason Notes

  • Four of The Summit League's five individual award honorees are back in 2018 with Denver boasting Freshman of the Year Meg Halvorson, while SDSU returns Defensive Player of the Year Annie Williams and Goalkeeper of the Year Maggie Smither along with reigning Coach of the Year Brock Thompson.
  • DU junior Hannah Adler is the league's top-returning goal scorer after netting nine in 2017
  • The Jackrabbits scored 16 goals and allowed only one during their perfect run through the regular season. Denver's 2013 team was the last to go unblemished in league play.
  • SDSU will look to make it five consecutive Summit League tournament appearances after winning the 2014, 2015 and 2016 titles and qualifying under first-year head coach Brock Thompson in 2017.
  • NDSU has finished no lower than a tie for second during the regular season since 2015, but has not won the tournament title since taking the 2010 crown.
  • The league will boast a pair of players that captured their respective league's Goalkeeper of the Year accolades in 2017 as well as a pair of coaches that earned their league's top honor. South Dakota State junior Maggie Smither was voted The Summit League's top netminder after allowing only one goal in league play and leading all goalies with 83 saves. North Dakota junior Catherine Klein earned the Big Sky's award after posting five shutouts and leading the league in saves with 74.
  • Joining Thompson as a reigning Coach of the Year is North Dakota's Chris Logan, who like his counterpart, impressed his peers as a rookie leader in 2017. Logan led UND to numerous milestones during his first season in Grand Forks, including a program-best four wins in Big Sky play. That total was just one shy of the number of wins UND amassed in its first five seasons combined in that league.

#SummitWSOC Schedule Notes

  • The 2018 season officially begins Aug. 16 with the league schedule kicking off Sept. 27 with Omaha visiting Oral Roberts.
  • The second weekend of league play will feature last year's title game rematch when Denver returns to Fargo to take on the Bison on Thursday, Oct. 4.
  • North Dakota will make its official Summit League debut at Oral Roberts on Sept. 30.
  • The top four regular-season finishers will qualify for The Summit League Women's Soccer Championship, which will be held by reigning regular-season champion SDSU in Brookings, S.D., Nov. 2 and 4.

Players to Watch
Hannah Adler, Denver – MF, Jr.
- 2017 First Team All-Summit, top-returning goal scorer in the league
- Tallied 22 points on nine goals and four assists last season

Meg Halvorson, Denver – MF, So.
- 2017 Summit League Freshman of the Year, 2017 Summit League All-Freshman Team, 2017 Second Team All-Summit
- Scored five goals during rookie season, which were most by a DU freshman since 2010

Katie Moller, North Dakota – F, Sr.
- Became first UND player to earn First Team All-Big Sky accolades in 2017
- Led the Fighting Hawks in points (23), goals (10), assists (3) and shots (84) last season  

Kennedy Kidd, North Dakota – MF, Sr.
- Recipient of UND's Coaches Award
- Ranked third on team in shots (19) and shots on goal (10)

Malley O'Brien, North Dakota State – MF, Sr.
- 2017 First Team All-Summit, 2017 Summit League All-Tournament Team
- Led Bison and tied for third in The Summit League with seven goals

Hanna Norman, North Dakota State – D, Sr.
- 2017 Second Team All-Summit
- Led NDSU defense that tied for second in The Summit League with six shutouts

Jordan Langenbartels, Oral Roberts – MF, Jr.
- Led Golden Eagles in goals (6), points (12) and shots on goal (18) in 2017
- Appeared in all 19 matches and tallied a pair of game-winning goals

Emily Romero, Omaha – MF, Sr.
- Tallied eight points on three goals and two assists in 2017
- Also had a team-high 23 shots

Paityn Fleming, Purdue Fort Wayne – MF, Sr.
- Started all 18 contests, playing all available minutes in 13 of those matches
- Scored a goal and added two assists to tally four points in 2017

Taryn Labree, South Dakota – F, Jr.
-
2017 Second Team All-Summit
- Totaled seven points in 2017, including a two-goal contest in a win over Purdue Fort Wayne

Kellee Willer, South Dakota – MF, Jr.
- 2017 Second Team All-Summit
- Led the Coyotes with nine points and three assists

Alexa Hepner, South Dakota State – D, Jr.
- 2017 Second Team All-Summit
- Led team in minutes played with 1,721 for the second-straight season, led back line that allowed only 17 goals on the year and posted eight shutouts

Leah Manuleleua, South Dakota State – F, Jr.
-
2017 First Team All-Summit, two-time Summit League Player of the Week
- Shared team lead with seven goals, second in points (17) and added three assists

Maggie Smither, South Dakota State – GK, Jr.
- 2017 Summit League  Goalkeeper of the Year, 2017 All-Summit First Team
- Allowed only one goal in Summit League play, finishing regular season with over 605 minutes of consecutive shutout action  

Annie Williams, South Dakota State – D, Sr.
- 2017 Summit League Defensive Player of the Year, 2017 First Team All-Summit
- Finished third on team with eight points, tallying three goals and adding two assists

Madeline Edwards, Western Illinois– F, Sr.
- One of three Fighting Leathernecks to start all 17 matches in 2017
- Finished campaign with six points, tallying two goals and two assists

Note: Players to Watch nominated by league's head coaches

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ABOUT THE SUMMIT LEAGUE

Through 36 years of Division I athletics, The Summit League offers 19 championship sports and has a combined enrollment of nearly 115,000 at nine institutions, including three located in top 60 U.S. metro populations and two land-grant universities. Member institutions include: Denver (University of Denver), Purdue Fort Wayne (Purdue University Fort Wayne), the University of North Dakota, North Dakota State University, Omaha (University of Nebraska Omaha), Oral Roberts University, the University of South Dakota, South Dakota State University and Western Illinois University. Previously known as the Mid-Continent Conference, The Summit League rebranded in 2007 and has since produced 12 NCAA Champions along with over 100 Academic All-Americans, nearly 125 All-America selections and numerous former student-athletes competing at the highest professional level. For more information about the league, visit www.thesummitleague.org website, follow The Summit League on Twitter @thesummitleague.

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