It's tough to improve on Women's Soccer's 2014 MAC season. The Bulls were just the third MAC team to go undefeated in-conference, posted historic defensive numbers, and became just the second team to sweep the MAC's year-end individual awards while placing four on the All-MAC First Team, two on the Second Team, and two on the MAC All-Freshman Team.
When Buffalo takes the field Friday in the season-opener against St. Joseph's, they'll be fielding new starters at four roles after losing three All-MAC honorees to graduation. But other frontrunners must also replace key pieces, and the Bulls will have to get used to living with a target on their back. In the MAC Coaches Poll released today, UB was picked first in the East (with seven of 12 votes) and received two votes to repeat as conference champion.
The top tier in the conference is a clear four teams. Miami, who loses First-Teamers Kelsey Dinges and Courtney Zanotti, was selected second in the East, garnering four votes to win the division, but six to win the whole conference. Western Michigan, the 2013 champion and 2014 runner-up, loses only midfielder Rachel Chaney from its conference honorees, and was picked alongside Ball State to top the West. Each received five votes. Kent State (1) and Eastern Michigan (2) rounded out the votes for division champions.
UB faces not only the pressure of being a frontrunner, but also an additional hurdle in their schedule; the Bulls' regular season matches against Miami, Western Michigan, and Ball State all come on the road. Leading the way will be returning All-MAC First Teamers Laura Dougall and Jackie Hall, and Second-Teamer Celina Carrero.
The full coaches poll is reproduced below:
1. Buffalo (7)
2. Miami (4)
3. Kent State (1)
5. Bowling Green
1. Western Michigan (5)
1. Ball State (5)
3. Eastern Michigan (2)
4. Central Michigan
5. Northern Illinois
Predicted Tournament Champion
Buffalo, Western Michigan, and Ball State received two votes a piece.