SPARTANBURG, S.C. – UNCG women’s soccer received the most first-place votes with five in the 2018 Southern Conference Coaches’ Preseason Poll and was selected to finish second, the league announced Thursday. The reigning SoCon Tournament Champion Spartans also placed a league-high three players on the preseason all-conference team: junior forward/midfielder Cienna Rideout, senior midfielder Heida Ragney Vidarsdottir and senior defender Emily Jensen.
Samford got three first-place votes and edged UNCG by one point overall with 75 for the first-place nod. Furman finished third with 68 points and the remaining two first-place votes, and Western Carolina was picked fourth with 56 points.
The Spartans defeated the Bulldogs 2-1 in double overtime in the semifinals of the SoCon Tournament last year before knocking off Western Carolina 1-0 in the championship game.
ETSU and Mercer tied for fifth in the poll with 39 points apiece while Chattanooga was right behind with 38 points. VMI earned 25 points to edge Wofford by two for eighth place. The Citadel rounded out the poll with 13 points.
Coaches were not allowed to vote for their own teams or players in the balloting.
The three all-league preseason selections are the most for UNCG since 2011 when the program had four players picked for the preseason honor.
Jensen earned First-Team All-SoCon honors last season. She started all 22 games on the backline and helped the Spartans record nine shutouts as a team, including six against SoCon opponents. She finished second on the team in scoring with 12 points, scoring five goals and adding two assists. She posted goals against High Point, Wofford, The Citadel, Elon and Western Carolina in the SoCon Championship game, including the game-winning goals against HPU, Wofford and Western Carolina.
Vidarsdottir earned Second-Team All-SoCon last year and played primarily in the defensive midfield role. One of three Spartans to start every game, she scored two goals and dished out an assist last year. She found the back of the net in SoCon games against Western Carolina and ETSU, which turned out to be the game-winner.
Rideout led the team last year in points (16) and goals (seven). She got hot at the right time of the year, scoring all but one of her goals in the last five games of the season. Notching a hat trick in the regular season finale against The Citadel, she produced the game-winning goal against Chattanooga in the quarterfinals of the conference tournament and then both goals at Samford in the double overtime, semifinal victory.
Already in team camp, the Spartans will face Winthrop Friday at 7 p.m. and James Madison Sunday at 6 p.m. both at home in their two exhibition games. The regular season kicks off with a home match next Friday at 7 p.m. against Gardner-Webb.
2018 Women’s Soccer Preseason Coaches’ Poll
1. Samford (3) 75
2. UNCG (5) 74
3. Furman (2) 68
4. Western Carolina 56
T5. ETSU 39
T5. Mercer 39
7. Chattanooga 38
8. VMI 25
9. Wofford 23
10. The Citadel 13
() denotes first-place votes
2018 Women’s Soccer Preseason All-Conference Team
F Eleonora Goldoni, ETSU
F Cienna Rideout, UNCG
F Megan McCallister, Western Carolina
F Hayley Younginer, Wofford
MF Erin O’Hearn, Furman
MF Heida Ragney Vidarsdottir, UNCG
MF Sayres McKenna, Western Carolina
D Emily Jensen, UNCG
D Allie Lourie, Samford
D Taylor Meneide, Samford
GK Kellsey Weaver, Furman
-- UNCG –