Denver picked to defend Summit League title

Denver was picked to defend its 2018 Summit League Championship title by the league's nine head coaches.
Denver was picked to defend its 2018 Summit League Championship title by the league's nine head coaches.

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – With 63 total points and five first-place votes, Denver was selected to hold the top spot in The Summit League women's soccer preseason coaches' poll released Monday by league officials. The Pioneers were six points clear of fellow 2018 co-champion South Dakota State (57 points) and held the top spot for the second-consecutive year.

2018 Coach of the Year Jeff Hooker has plenty of key players back for a title defense, including 2018 Freshman of the Year Samantha Feller, who is one of four All-Summit League first teamers returning to his lineup.

The Jackrabbits, who owned the remaining two first-place votes, will host the 2019 Summit League Championship in Brookings on Nov. 7 and 9. SDSU and DU finished with identical 7-1 records in 2018, but a head-to-head win by the Jackrabbits during the regular season earned them the top seed a year ago and right to host the event again in 2019.  

SDSU head coach Brock Thompson has led the Jackrabbits to a 15-1 mark in Summit League play through his first two seasons in Brookings. Thompson returns a stout defense led by back-to-back Goalkeeper of the Year Maggie Smither.

Third through seventh place in the poll were separated by only 10 points. North Dakota State led that pack with 41 points and will look to finish inside the top three in the league standings for the fifth-consecutive season. Omaha (39 points) was picked to finish fourth a season after advancing to the Summit League Championship match for the first time in program history.

South Dakota (37 points) was picked to finish fifth after missing out on postseason play by a single point in head coach Michael Thomas' first season with the program. North Dakota (32 points) also came up just short of a postseason bid in its first season as a league member in 2018. The Fighting Hawks were picked sixth (32 points) and will try to replace the production of Offensive Player of the Year Katie Moller, who led the league in goals in 2018 with 15.
 
Oral Roberts (31 points) was picked to finish seventh and the Golden Eagles were part of a four-team pack that was within four points of earning of the final tournament berth in 2018. Purdue Fort Wayne (14 points) and Western Illinois (10 points) rounded out the final two spots in the poll.

2019 Summit League Women's Soccer Preseason Coaches' Poll

Rank

School

Points (1st)

2018 Record (SL)

1.

Denver

63 (7)

13-6-2 (7-1-0, 21 pts.)

2.

South Dakota State

57 (2)

12-6-1 (7-1-0, 21 pts.)

3.

North Dakota State

41

9-7-0 (6-2-0, 18 pts.)

4.

Omaha

39

8-11-2 (4-3-1, 13 pts.)

5.

South Dakota

37

9-7-2 (4-4-0, 12 pts.)

6.

North Dakota

32

9-6-2 (3-4-1, 10 pts.)

7.

8.

9.

Oral Roberts

Purdue Fort Wayne

Western Illinois

31

14

10

8-12-0 (3-5-0, 9 pts.)

4-12-3 (1-7-0, 3 pts.)

3-14-1 (0-8-0, 0 pts)


#SummitWSOC Preseason Notes

  • Three of The Summit League's five individual award honorees are back in 2019 with Denver boasting Freshman of the Year Samantha Feller and reigning Coach of the Year Jeff Hooker. South Dakota State has Goalkeeper of the Year Maggie Smither back between the pipes. 
  • Denver has won the Summit League Championship title each of the past two seasons as the No. 2 seed.
  • SDSU will look to make its seventh consecutive Summit League tournament appearance after winning the 2014, 2015 and 2016 titles and qualifying under then first-year head coach Brock Thompson in 2017 and earning the top seed in 2018.
  • NDSU has finished no lower than third during the regular season since 2015 and the Bison made their 10th-straight appearance in the postseason event in 2018. Their last title came in 2010.
  • The league will boast a pair of players that have captured a Division I conference's Goalkeeper of the Year accolade. Joining Smither with that distinction is North Dakota netminder Catherine Klein, who sat out the 2018 season, but was the 2017 Big Sky Goalkeeper of the Year for the Fighting Hawks two years ago.
  • Smither is one of three Summit League players back in 2019 that earned United Soccer Coaches All-West Region honors a year ago. Smither earned second-team accolades while Denver's Hannah Adler (first team) and Samantha Feller (third team) were also honored.
  • Adler, Feller, midfielder Meg Halvorson, and defender Cheyenne Shorts give the Pios a league-best quartet of All-Summit League first team performers back from 2018.
  • The remaining All-Summit League first-teamers back from a year ago are Smither and NDSU forward Mariah Haberle. 

#SummitWSOC Schedule Notes

  • The 2019 season officially begins Aug. 22 with the league schedule kicking off Oct. 3 with Omaha visiting Western Illinois.
  • Preseason favorite Denver will wrap up the regular season at home against the next two teams in the poll as second-ranked South Dakota State visits on Halloween, then third-ranked North Dakota State visits the Mile High City on Nov. 3
  • DU will play at Omaha on Oct. 17 in a rematch of the 2018 Championship Match
  • The top four regular-season finishers will qualify for The Summit League Women's Soccer Championship, held in Brookings, S.D., Nov. 7 and 9.

Players to Watch

Hannah Adler | Denver | Senior | Midfielder
• 2017 and 2018 First Team All-Summit, 2018 Summit Championship MVP
• 2018 United Soccer Coaches All-West Region First Team
• Five of seven goals in 2018 were game-winners 

Samantha Feller | Denver | Sophomore | Forward
• 2018 Summit League Freshman of the Year, 2018 First Team All-Summit and All-Freshman Team, 2018 All-Tournament Team
• Top returning goal scorer in The Summit League after netting nine as a rookie

Meg Halvorson | Denver | Junior | Midfielder
• 2018 First Team All-Summit
• 2017 Summit League Freshman of the Year, 2017 Summit League All-Freshman Team, 2017 Second Team All-Summit
• Four of six goals in 2018 were in Summit League action 

Cheyenne Shorts | Denver | Senior | Defender
• 2018 First Team All-Summit, 2018 All-Tournament Team
• Helped Pios' defense record 10 shutouts in 21 matches in 2018

Megan Wright | North Dakota | Junior | Forward
• Tallied two goals and four assists in 2018
• Three of her assists set up game-winning goals for the Fighting Hawks

Mariah Haberle | North Dakota State | Senior | Midfielder
• 2018 First Team All-Summit
• Registered a career-high 16 points in 2018, four of six goals were game-winners

Jordan Langenbartels | Oral Roberts | Senior | Midfielder
• Led Golden Eagles with career-highs in goals (7) and points (18)
• Appeared in 15 matches, earning nine starts

Andrea Daves | Omaha | Senior | Midfielder
• Led Mavericks with six assists and her lone goal in 2018 was the game-winner vs. Green Bay
• Saw action in all 21 matches, earning 17 starts 

Kayla Wisniewski | Purdue Fort Wayne | Sophomore | Forward
• 2018 All-Freshman Team
• Ranked third in The Summit League with eight goals and fourth in points with 19
• Eight goals were third-most by a Mastadon rookie in program history

Alexis Mitchell | South Dakota | Junior | Midfielder
• Started all 18 games in 2018, netting a goal and three assists
• Helped lead USD to a Division I record for wins in a season in 2018

Leah Manuleleua | South Dakota State | Senior | Forward
• 2018 Second Team All-Summit, 2017 First Team All-Summit
• Led Jackrabbits with 14 points and shared team lead with four goals

Maggie Smither | South Dakota State | Senior | Goalkeeper
• 2017 and 2018 Summit League  Goalkeeper of the Year, 2017 and 2018 All-Summit First Team
• 2018 United Soccer Coaches All-West Region Second Team
• Posted 10 shutouts in 2018 and has 18 during her career

Lauryn Peters | Western Illinois | Junior | Forward
• Logged a goal and two assists in 2017 and 2018
• Appeared in all 35 matches over the past two seasons

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

#SummitWSOC