FRISCO, Texas – Lamar University is favored to repeat as the Southland Conference regular-season champion in 2018, the league announced Thursday with the preseason poll rankings.
Lamar earned 20 first-place votes and 240 total points to garner the top spot. Stephen F. Austin earned two first-place votes and 212 points for second place while Abilene Christian collected a pair of top votes and 182 points for third.
The Cardinals are coming off a championship campaign which saw them win the Southland regular-season title with a 10-1 league record, followed by their first ever league tournament crown. This came just one year after a last-place finish in 2016, where Lamar finished 1-7-3 in conference play. This marked the first time in Southland soccer history a team went from last place to first in one season.
Stephen F. Austin is tabbed to finish second with 212 total points and a pair of first-place votes. The Ladyjacks finished tied for second in the regular-season standings in 2017 with an 8-3 league record. SFA fell 2-0 to Lamar in the conference championship match last season in Corpus Christi, Texas.
Abilene Christian landed the number three spot with two first-place votes and 182 points. The Wildcats finished sixth last season with a 6-5 conference mark and nearly made their way to the conference tournament title game in their first season of postseason eligibility. ACU defeated the No. 3 seed McNeese 5-3 in penalties before falling to No. 2 SFA 4-2 in PKs in the semifinals. Abilene Christian enters 2018 with four preseason all-conference picks, tied for the league high, including the 2017 Freshman of the Year Christina Arteaga.
Central Arkansas was voted to the fourth-place spot with 172 points while McNeese rounds out the top five with 169. Houston Baptist ranked right behind in sixth place with 161 points, followed by Sam Houston State (124), Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (102) and Southeastern Louisiana (85). Northwestern State (61), Nicholls (41) and UIW (35) round out the preseason poll.
The 2018 season gets underway Thursday, Aug. 16, when Sam Houston State hosts Utah at 6:30 p.m. CT and Abilene Christian faces Baylor on the road at 7 p.m. Click here for a composite 2018 schedule. Lamar is set to host the 2018 Southland Conference Soccer Tournament, taking place from Oct. 31 to Nov. 4, at the LU Soccer Complex in Beaumont, Texas.
The Southland Conference preseason poll is voted on by each head coach and soccer sports information director. Each voter ranks their predicted order of regular-season finish, not including their own team. First-place votes are worth 12 points, second-place votes are worth 11, and so on to one point for 11th place.