PIKEVILLE – In the always tough Mid-South Conference, the University of Pikeville women’s soccer team was picked to finish eighth by a vote of the league’s coaches released on Wednesday.
Three conference teams finished the season ranked in the NAIA Top-25 Poll a year ago, and this season figures to pick off right where it left off in terms of talent. Leading the preseason predictions is last season’s national runner-up Lindsey Wilson with seven of the eight first-place votes.
Following the Blue Raiders is Campbellsville with the other first-place nod and Cumberland (Tenn.) rounds out the top three. Coaches were not allowed to vote for their own teams.
Georgetown, which was ranked 23rd in the final NAIA poll of 2015, is picked to finish fourth in the league, while Cumberlands is fifth, Shawnee State (Ohio) is sixth and newcomer Life (Ga.) comes in at No. 7.
UPIKE will have to prove itself against MSC competition after finishing last year at 0-7 in league play. It was the first season since 2012 that the Bears hadn’t won a game in the conference.
A large number of returning veterans should help sixth-year head coach Gary Warford’s cause as the roster is made up of three seniors, 10 juniors, seven sophomores and nine freshmen. Among the upperclassmen are at least eight players with experience in the starting lineup, including junior Macarena Acuna who finished second on the team with seven goals last season.
There is also help in the form of junior-college transfers, including goalkeeper Chelsie Randolph from Toledo, Ohio and defender Madison Cook from Fremont, Calif. Junior Hayden Bentley, a transfer from Cincinnati State, will add depth to the midfield after sitting out last season.
UPIKE will open its 2016 campaign on Aug. 20 at Ohio Christian in Circleville, Ohio, while the home opener is scheduled for 5 p.m. n Aug. 27 against Hiwassee (Tenn.) at the Bob Amos Soccer Complex.