Tiger women picked seventh in MIAA soccer From FHSU Sports Information

The Fort Hays State Women's Soccer team was picked to finish seventh in the 2014 MIAA Preseason Coaches' Poll, released Wednesday (Aug. 20) by the league office.

FHSU was tabbed two spots ahead of its finish last season, when the Tigers were 7-8-3 (3-5-3 MIAA) and narrowly missed a postseason berth.

This season, FHSU features a strong core of experienced returners, mixed in with newcomers set to make an immediate impact.

In the backfield, senior Dani Harris was an All-MIAA selection last season and anchors a strong group of returners. Though listed as a defender, Harris was tied for the team lead in goals (four), assists (two) and points (10) last year, and will be one of five seniors on the team, joined by Jamie Babyak, Hailey Davey, Margaret Meier, Laura Regnier and Jordan Shaw.

Harris and junior Gabrielle Makatura both started all 18 games for the Tigers last year, joining Mallory Diederich, Babyak and Regnier as upperclassman defenders that limited opponents to 20 goals last year.

Offensively, Davey (two goals, four assists in 2013) and junior Ember Albertson (one assist) will look for breakout seasons on a team that had 26 goals last season. Shaw and junior Jordan Hester will help manage a group of newcomers that includes Kelsey Steffens and Fiorella Fustagno, who have impressed thus far in preseason.

A crowded pack of upperclassman will compete for playing time in the midfield, with Meier as the group's lone senior. Juniors Cenayda Guzman (two goals in 2013) and Kylee Loneker, who had three goals last year, saw extensive playing time last year in addition to sophomore Hannah Jurgens. Jurgens tallied eight points (two goals and four assists) as a freshman.

Between the pipes, redshirt freshman Kristen Thompson, junior transfer Kimi Kaniaupio and freshman Abbie Flax are fighting for a starting spot, as both goalkeepers from 2013 are no longer with the squad.

Central Missouri, the 2013 MIAA regular season champion, tops the poll with eleven first place votes and 121 total points, followed by Southwest Baptist, picked second with 100 points. SBU won last year's MIAA tournament in overtime over Central Oklahoma, which is picked third and just two points behind SBU, earning one first place vote. Picked fourth, Northeastern State grabbed 91 points, well ahead of fifth-picked Washburn (72 points).

From there, things are close with just two points separating WU, Lindenwood (71 points) and the Tigers (70), in seventh.

Closing out the final five spots is Nebraska-Kearney (50 points), Emporia State (47 points), Missouri Southern (30 points), Northwest Missouri (27 points) and Missouri Western (15 points).

Fort Hays State hosts Kansas Wesleyan in exhibition action this Saturday (Aug. 23) at 11 a.m., and will kick off the regular season on Friday, Sept. 5 in Marshall, Minn., against No. 21 Southwest Minnesota State.

The complete 2014 MIAA Preseason Coaches' Poll is below...

2014 MIAA Preseason Coaches Poll
1. Central Missouri (11) 121
2. Southwest Baptist 100
3. Central Oklahoma (1) 98
4. Northeastern State 91
5. Washburn 72
6. Lindenwood 71
7. Fort Hays State 70
8. Nebraska-Kearney 50
9. Emporia State 47
10. Missouri Southern 30
11. Northwest Missouri 27
12. Missouri Western 15