WKU Soccer has been picked to finish ninth in the annual preseason C-USA coaches’ poll as announced by the conference office on Monday afternoon.
Last season, WKU finished in a tie for eighth place in C-USA after a 4-5-1 record in conference play that saw the Lady Toppers come away victorious in four of their last five matches. Rice and North Texas, who have combined to win every regular season C-USA crown since 2014, are tabbed first and second, respectively, followed by 2016 tournament champion Charlotte, Old Dominion and Florida Atlantic.
Two-time All-C-USA selection Nicole Roseland is set to lead WKU's returners into action in 2018. The senior has played in every possible match since arriving on The Hill in 2015 and has drawn starts in all but four of those contests, including all 17 matches last season. As a holding midfielder for the Lady Toppers, Roseland garnered First Team All-C-USA honors in 2016 before following up with a Third Team nod in 2017.
Chandler Backes, WKU's leading scorer in each of the last two seasons, also returns for her junior campaign. The Carmel, Ind., native burst onto the scene with 10 goals during her freshman season in 2016 before adding six more last year; her 16 career goals through two seasons already rank 10th all-time on WKU's goalscoring list. Including Backes, WKU brings back four of its top five point scorers from 2017, losing only Hannah Chua to graduation.
Along the back line, two-time C-USA Defensive Player of the Week Christina Bragado is back, as is sophomore Avery Jacobsen who started 12 matches during her debut season. Wingback Aleksandra Kozovic, who served as WKU's free kick specialist for much of last season, also returns after starting 15 of a possible 17 matches for the Lady Toppers in 2017.
In goal, WKU will have a new primary goalkeeper for the first time since 2013 as it seeks to replace four-year starter Allison Leone. Redshirt junior Anne-Marie Ulliac sat out last season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules, while freshman Bailee Witt has jumped into the competition immediately as well. Whoever receives the nod will look to continue the tradition of WKU's strong goalkeeping that has seen two players, Libby Stout and Nora Abolins, go on to play professionally overseas following their collegiate careers.
In addition to its returners, WKU is set to mix in seven newcomers throughout the preseason, including 2017 Miss Kentucky Soccer Ambere Barnett. Kentucky natives Chelsea Moore and Olivia Stanley will look to have an immediate impact, as will Kerragan Mulzer, Lyric Schmidt and late signee Isidora Pekez. In each of the last two seasons, a true freshman has finished in the top two in point scoring for the Lady Toppers.