FRISCO, Texas – Abilene Christian is favored to claim the Southland Conference regular-season title in 2019, the league announced Thursday with the preseason predicted order of finsh.
The Wildcats earned 11 first-place votes and 227 total points to garner the top spot, followed closely by defending regular-season champion Central Arkansas with 10 first-place votes and 225 total points. Lamar accounted for the other three top votes and came in at third with 206 points.
Abilene Christian placed a league-high eight student-athletes on the preseason all-conference teams, including five on the top squad. The Wildcats return all but three players who took the field in the 2018 Southland Soccer Tournament championship match, where they defeated No. 7 Stephen F. Austin 3-1 to earn the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
In just its second full year of eligibility in the conference, Abilene Christian entered the tournament as the No. 5 seed after a 7-3-1 mark in league play and upset No. 4 McNeese and top-seeded Central Arkansas on the way to the title game.
Central Arkansas claimed the top spot in the 2018 tournament after closing the regular season on a nine-match win streak in which the Bears outscored opponents 28-3. UCA landed five on the preseason all-conference teams, led by first-team selections Hadley Dickenson and Connie Awuku-Darkoh.
Lamar’s title-defense campaign didn’t go as planned in 2018, wrapping up the regular season as the No. 3 seed with a 7-2-2 mark in conference matches. The Cardinals played host to the conference tournament but fell to No. 7 Stephen F. Austin 2-1 in the semifinals.
McNeese was voted to the fourth-place spot with 163 points while Houston Baptist rounds out the top five with 146. Stephen F. Austin ranked right behind in sixth place with 142 points, followed by Southeastern Louisiana (133), Northwestern State (94) and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (86). Sam Houston State (85), UIW (55) and Nicholls (22) round out the preseason poll.
The 2019 season gets underway Thursday, Aug. 22, with four matches including Houston at Sam Houston State (6:30 p.m.), Prairie View A&M at Houston Baptist (7 p.m.), Northwestern State at North Texas (7 p.m.) and Oklahoma State at Lamar (7:30 p.m.). Central Arkansas is set to host the 2019 Southland Conference Soccer Tournament Nov. 6-10 at the Bill Stephens Track & Soccer Complex in Conway, Ark.
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 11 points, second-place votes are worth 10, and so on to one point for 11th place.