OGDEN, Utah – The Northern Arizona University women's soccer team was picked to finish fifth in the Big Sky, the conference office announced today, August 8, in the 2016 Preseason Poll. Head Coach Andre Luciano and the Lumberjacks received 58 points behind the early favorite University of Idaho in addition to second place Eastern Washington, third place Northern Colorado and fourth place Montana.
"From top to bottom, I think our conference is the best it has ever been," Luciano commented. "We lost a lot of starters from last season, so I'm a little bit surprised we were picked as high as fifth. At the end of the day, we're just focused on the process and playing for each other."
Luciano graduated four All-Big Sky selections from last season, but still returns a plethora of talent in 2016. Junior Adrian Nixt and senior Lindsay Doyle look to lead to the charge on the offensive end, while senior Dani Muniz and redshirt junior Missy Kettelkamp bring back a strong mix of experience in the backfield.
Receiving five first-place votes and a total of 92 points – solidifying a margin of 11 points between first and second – was the University Idaho. The Vandals snagged the 2015 Regular Season Championship and hope to do the same a year later. Reeling in 81 points and two first-place votes for second place was Eastern Washington University, but Northern Colorado wasn't far behind receiving three first-place votes and a total of 78 points. Montana, predicted to finish fourth, was the only other school to receive a first-place vote.
The Lumberjacks, with 58 points, edged both Sacramento State and Weber State for fifth place as the Hornets and Wildcats garnered 56 points each in a tie for sixth place. Rounding out the poll was Portland State, Southern Utah, North Dakota and Idaho State for eighth through 11th place respectively.
Northern Arizona will kick off the 2016 campaign with an exhibition game against the University of Arizona on Friday, August 12 at 7 p.m. in Tucson, Ariz. The 'Jacks will return to Flagstaff for their home opener versus Utah Valley on Friday, August 19 in Lumberjack Stadium. Kick-off is set for 7 p.m.
Big Sky Preseason Soccer Poll
1. Idaho - 92 (5)
2. Eastern Washington - 81 (2)
3. Northern Colorado - 78 (3)
4. Montana - 77 (1)
5. Northern Arizona - 58
T6. Sacramento State - 56
T6. Weber State - 56
8. Portland State - 45
9. Southern Utah - 29
10. North Dakota - 21
11. Idaho State - 12
(Number of first place votes in parentheses)