Long Beach State Selected First In Big West Women's Soccer Preseason Poll
2017 Women's Soccer Preseason Poll
Reigning Big West Tournament champion Long Beach State received eight first-place votes in preseason balloting among the league’s nine head coaches, grabbing the top spot with 78 points. Cal State Fullerton garnered 63 points, UC Santa Barbara collected 59 points and UC Irvine, which received the remaining first-place nod, rounded out the top four teams with 54 points.
Defending regular season champion CSUN (50 points), Cal Poly (34), UC Davis (31), UC Riverside (21) and Hawai‘i (15) finished out the voting in this year’s preseason poll.
Long Beach State comes off of its 2016 campaign in which it made its second consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament, its sixth in nine years. LBSU finished with a 10-6-4 overall record for its ninth 10-win season with coach Mauricio Ingrassia at the helm. The Beach recorded a 4-1-3 mark in league play and is 16-8-8 in league since 2013. Four players return for the Beach who received All-Conference accolades last season including senior forward Ashley Gonzales, junior midfielder Dana Fujikuni, sophomore defender Kaitlin Fregulia and 2016 Big West Freshman of the Year, Chloe Froment. Gonzales, the 2016 Big West Offensive Player of the Year, led the Big West in goals (11) and points (25) and has already written her name in the conference record book with 13 game-winning goals, the seventh-most all-time. A two-time All-Big West first team honoree, Gonzales also led the conference with 29 shots on goal last season and three penalty kicks in as many chances. The senior was also selected to the MAC Hermann Trophy Preseason Watch List earlier this month, an honor given to the nation’s top collegiate women’s soccer player.
Seniors Connie Caliz, Sarah Fajnor and Tala Haddad highlight Cal State Fullerton’s returning cast that went 8-10-1 overall and 5-3-0 in league play last year. With seven scores, Fajnor paced the Titans and helped CSF notch 15 goals in league play, the most by any Big West team in conference. The Titans also led the league in shot-percentage (.165) and in assists in league with 14, while Fajnor’s 13 points in Big West play (6g, 1a) topped the competition. With three Big West Tournament crowns in four years, the Titans will seek their seventh tourney title this season.
UC Santa Barbara returns 2016 All-Big West first-team selection in Amanda Ball as the Gauchos seek their first outright Big West regular season title since 2006. Ball recorded the second-most goals in league last season with 10 scores while her 21 points and three game-winning goals were the third-most in 2016. Along with returning standouts junior Mallory Hromatko and senior Chace Schornstein, Ball and the Gauchos recorded their best start since 1989 with an 8-0 mark before finishing out the season 11-6-2 overall and 2-5-1 in league.
Coach Scott Juniper and the Anteaters made noise last season, going 7-1-0 through their first eight contests for the first time since 1998. UCI will bring back key returners from that squad in Kiana Palacios, Noel Baham and Andrea Mensen. Palacios notched nine goals and five assists in her junior campaign for 23 points, the second-most in the Big West. The senior also helped the ‘Eaters from a seven-win season in 2015 to a second place finish a year ago that culminated with an appearance in the Big West Tournament final for the first time since 2011.
The coaches also voted for a 11-player all-conference team that revealed top talent throughout the league with representation from seven programs. CSUN (Lindsay Kutscher, Jovani McCaskill, Cynthia Sanchez) placed three on the squad, while Long Beach State (Chloe Froment, Ashley Gonzales) and UC Santa Barbara (Amanda Ball, Mallory Hromatko) had two. Cal Poly’s Megan Abutin, Cal State Fullerton’s Connie Caliz, UC Irvine’s Kiana Palacios and Hawaii’s Raisa Strom-Okimoto rounded out the list.