It's no secret that Women's Soccer has had two years of bigtime losses to graduation while piling up consecutive MAC East Championships, two trips to the MAC Semifinals, and a MAC Championship Crown. It might be a better-kept secret (stay tuned tomorrow for our Women's Soccer Season Preview) that the foundations for continued success in the MAC are sturdy.
The conference's coaches know it. UB is not a favorite in today's MAC Preseason poll, but did receive two votes to win the East Division and two votes to win the MAC Championship despite losing Jackie Hall, Kristin Markiewicz, and Kassidy Kidd from last year's starting lineup.
Within the East Division, Buffalo sits behind Miami, who have been consistently strong in the MAC for a full recruiting cycle now, and Kent State, who made major strides last year behind offensive star Jenna Hellstrom. Both teams received five votes to win their division. The West was less contentious with Ball State and their fearsome defense claiming 11 votes to win the West.
The votes for the ultimate NCAA Tournament representative are emblematic of the wide-open conference -- it really does feel like Ball State and everyone else. The Cardinals receive only three votes to win the MAC Tournament, as do Central Michigan and Kent State, while Buffalo receives two and Miami one.
From a UB standpoint, looking at the talent still or newly on the field and the talent coming through the recruiting pipeline, this year could be key for establishing perennial success in the program, as Miami has found. Coach Burke has maintained a responsible scholarship distribution and will have a number of underclass contributors this season. That the conference's coaches still recognize the Bulls as a top-half team should boost fans' optimism not just for this year, but for the long-term success of the program.
The full poll:
1. Kent State (5)
2. Miami (5)
3. Buffalo (2)
6. Bowling Green
1. Ball State (11)
2. Western Michigan
3. Central Michigan (1)
4. Eastern Michigan
6. Northern Illinois
Tournament Champion (TIE): Ball State (3), Central Michigan (3), Kent State (3)
Buffalo (2), Miami (1)