August 15, 2013

Nighthawks Picked To Finish Third In PBC Women's Soccer Preseason Poll

AUGUSTA, Georgia – ( - The Columbus State Cougars have been chosen as the preseason favorite to win the 2013 Peach Belt women's soccer championship in a poll of the league's head coaches released on Thursday.  Columbus State received four first-place votes and finished with 111 total points, just two points ahead of defending champion Armstrong Atlantic State.  North Georgia was third in the voting with Clayton State in fourth.  Next was Lander, a tie between UNC Pembroke and Georgia College, Flagler, Montevallo, USC Aiken, Young Harris and Georgia Southwestern to round out the voting.

Columbus State's two-point margin is tied for the second-lowest in PBC history.  In 2005, USC Upstate was the preseason pick by one point over Clayton State.  Just two years ago, Armstrong was the #1 choice with a two-point margin over Columbus State.  The preseason selection is CSU's sixth overall, the most of any PBC program.

Columbus State is coming off a very successful 2012 campaign that saw the team finish second in the PBC standings with a 8-2-1 league mark, 18-3-2 overall. CSU reached the championship game of the PBC Tournament and advanced to the regional final of the NCAA Tournament, falling to Armstrong in a 6-5 penalty kick shootout.  For 2013, the Lady Cougars return 13 players from last season's squad including All-Southeast Region defender Shelby Rolling.  Forwards Chelsea Person and Kelsey Pelletier also return after scoring four and three goals last year, respectively. Also, defender Blakely Heideman returns for her sophomore campaign. 

Armstrong made school and conference history last year by becoming the first PBC women's soccer team to be ranked #1 in the nation during the regular season.  Armstrong held that rank for two weeks last November as they won the PBC regular-season and tournament championships and advanced to the national quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament.  19-2-2 overall with an 11-0 league mark, the Pirates lost nine seniors from the 2012 squad but do return senior midfielder Andye Dawson and sophomore defender Taylor Russell, both of whom were named to the PBC preseason All-Conference team on Wednesday.

North Georgia reached the semifinals of the 2012 PBC Tournament and to the second round of the NCAA Tournament as they went 15-5-2 overall, 6-3-2 in league play.  The Nighthawks scored 15 more goals than the next-closest team in the PBC and return nearly everyone from that squad including five of their six top goal-scorers.  Among the returners is first-team All-Conference midfielder Kelly Penston who was third in the league with 12 goals scored.  Also back is All-Conference midfielder Cicely Taliaferro and junior defender Megan Morrow.  All three were named preseason All-Conference selections.

Clayton State turned in their first 10-win season since 2006 as they went 6-3-2 in league play last year, 10-7-2 overall and finished in a tie for fourth in the league standings.  The Lakers lost two of their top four goal-scorers from last season's team but do return first-team All-Conference selection Alicia Robinson and sophomore forward Brooke Bortles.

The 2013 women's soccer season begins on Sept. 5 with eight games on the schedule.  Conference play begins in earnest on Sept. 21 and continues through the PBC Tournament Nov. 5, 8-10 with the final four once again at Blanchard Woods Park in Evans, Ga., site of the 2013 NCAA National Championships.  The PBC also welcomes Jeremy Hampton as the new head coach at the University of Montevallo.

Teams were given 11 points for a first-place vote, 10 for a second-place and so on.  Coaches were not permitted to rank their own teams.

2013 Peach Belt Conference Women's Soccer Preseason Poll