Cleveland, OH - With 10 starters returning off a team that went through MAC play undefeated and eventually advanced into the second round of the NCAA Tournament, Central Michigan is the popular pick to repeat as MAC regular season champions in this year's head coaches' preseason poll. With a new divisional format this year, the Chippewas were voted as West Division champ while their counterpart in last year's conference title game, the Miami RedHawks, were picked to win the East.
Two-time reigning Coach of the Year Tom Anagnost brings back 13 letterwinners from last year's squad, including four players who made First Team All-MAC. CMU finished 9-0-2 in the conference a year ago and then won three straight conference tournament games on their home turf to advance into the Field of 64. Once there, they shocked Purdue by a score of 2-0 before falling to eventual Final Four participant Notre Dame in the second round. Now coming off a season in which they finished 17-4-3 and return many key components, including MAC Defensive Player of the Year Shay Mannino, expectations are high in Mount Pleasant.
Placing second in the West are the Eastern Michigan Eagles. Although the graduation of MAC Offensive Player of the Year Ashley Rodrigues will be difficult to overcome, EMU brings back eight starters to what may possibly be the most explosive offense in the league. In finishing in a tie with Akron for second place in the league a year ago, the Eagles can claim to have scored the only goal Central Michigan gave up in 14 games against MAC competition. Toledo, Western Michigan, Northern Illinois and Ball State round out the West Division poll.
In the East, Miami will try to build on the momentum it ended last season with as they were able to win four consecutive games to earn a spot in MAC Championship game before falling to CMU. With just five starters and nine letterwinners back, the Red and White will be one of the younger teams in the league and will rely on the goal-scoring of senior Sara Lund and an experienced back line that includes First Team All-MAC defender Brooke Livingston.
Following Miami in the East is Akron, the surprise team in the league a year ago. Picked to finish 11th in last season's preseason poll, Akron rebounded from a difficult start to the season by winning its last six regular season games and earning a share of second place in the league. The return of goaltender Jeny Wolbert bodes well for the Zips as they look for a strong repeat performance during the 2010 campaign. Ohio, Kent State, Bowling Green and Buffalo all hope to contend in the East Division race.
The regular season opens this Friday, August 20th as seven of the league's teams take the pitch. Conference season begins September 24th and will wrap up on October 28th. The East and West Division champs will earn the top two seeds in the MAC Tournament while the rest of the eight-team field will be seeded according to point total regardless of division. The MAC Tournament starts October 31st at campus sites and will then move to the home of the highest remaining seed for the semifinals and final which will take place on November 5th and 7th, respectively.
2010 MAC Women's Soccer Preseason Coaches Poll
(First-place votes in parentheses)
1. Miami (6)
2. Akron (4)
3. Ohio (2)
4. Kent State
5. Bowling Green
1. Central Michigan (9)
2. Eastern Michigan (2)
3. Toledo (1)
4. Western Michigan
5. Northern Illinois
6. Ball State