Women’s soccer team picked to finish 5th in OVC preseason poll

Oscar Rzodkiewicz, Assistant Sports Editor

Dillan Schorfheide | The Daily Eastern News                  Niondina Nystrom dribbles past a defender in Eastern’s 1-1 tie against Northern Illinois Friday at Lakeside Field.

The Eastern women’s soccer team was selected to place fifth in the OVC preseason poll.

Eastern is ranked two slots lower than they finished last year, behind Murray State, Tennessee-Martin, Eastern Kentucky and Southern Illinois Edwardsville.

Last season the polls were much harsher to the Panthers, listing them dead last in the standings out of 11 teams, but the team seemed to have no problems pushing aside those low expectations.

For senior Lindsey Carlson, this will be the first year she has seen Eastern out of the cellar in the preseason polls since she started with the team in 2016, but she says the team is not stressing.

“As a team, we know the preseason poll is not a true representation of who we are,” Carlson said. “It is merely a vote. We don’t necessarily pay attention to who is ranked where. We just focus on what we can improve on from the year before in order to win that championship.”

The preseason poll selected Murray State, the team that knocked Eastern out of the OVC tournament last season, to complete a third straight title run this season.

Carlson said it makes sense that the Racers are on top.

“We know we fell short of first place last year which is why we are not ranked at the top,” Carlson said. “It’s as simple as that. It doesn’t change our annual mindset, standard or effort to earn that title.”

Murray State brings back all three of its top goal scorers this season, including last season’s OVC Freshman of the Year award-winner, Abby Jones, who tallied a team-high 26 points.

However, Racers former goalkeeper Alex Steigerwald graduated after recording 82 saves in 19 games played, leaving the spot open for either redshirt freshman Jamie Skarupsky or freshman Jasmine Rosell, both of whom received time in the team’s only exhibition match.

Out of the teams ranked ahead of Eastern in the 2019 poll, only Murray State defeated the Panthers last year.

Eastern played Tennessee-Martin and Eastern Kentucky to draws and downed Southern Illinois Edwardsville 1-0 last year.

Tennessee-Martin appears to be Eastern’s next big issue, after the Racers, as head coach Phil McNamara returns with the Skyhawks after capturing the OVC Coach of the Year title last season with an undefeated conference regular season record.

The bad news for Tennessee-Martin is that its leading goal-scorer and OVC Player of the Year Amy McGivern graduated from the school and leaves a big hole in the offense.

The season begins Thursday for the Racers and the Skyhawks, so Eastern gets a chance to see how their conference opponents fare in the early season before the Panthers face Ball State on Friday at 4 p.m.

Oscar Rzodkiewicz can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].