UC Irvine Selected First In Big West Women's Soccer Preseason Poll
2018 Women's Soccer Preseason All-Conference Team and Poll
UC Irvine, the reigning Big West Conference regular season champion, received three first-place votes in preseason balloting among the league’s nine head coaches, grabbing the top spot with 70 points. Long Beach State garnered 68 points and two first-place nods while Cal State Fullerton collected 65 points and three first-place votes of its own. CSUN rounded out the top four teams with 48 points.
UC Davis (42 points, one first-place vote), UC Santa Barbara (35 points), UC Riverside (32 points), Cal Poly (28 points) and Hawai‘i (17 points) finished out the voting in this year’s preseason poll.
UC Irvine comes off of a 2017 campaign in which it claimed its third all-time regular season title, joining the 2010 and 2011 teams in program lore. The Anteaters finished with a 10-6-4 overall record for their seventh 10-win season with coach Scott Juniper at the helm. The ‘Eaters also recorded a 5-2-1 mark in league play and are 10-4-2 in Big West action over the last two seasons. Two players return for the Anteaters who received All-Conference accolades last season in junior goalkeeper Maddie Newsome, who received an honorable mention nod, and sophomore forward Claire Grouwinkel, an All-Freshman selection. Newsome led the league with eight clean sheets and a .815 save percentage, helping the club record a league-high 10 shutouts. She also ranked second in the Big West in goals against average (0.82) and stopped 75 shots on frame over a standout 2017 campaign.
Long Beach State finished in fifth place in league play a year ago, going 3-3-2 as part of a 9-6-3 overall campaign. Ashley Gonzales, the 2016 Big West Offensive Player of the Year, returns for the Beach after missing last season with an injury and joins four All-Conference selections from 2017 in junior defender Kaitlin Fregulia, junior forward Katie Pingel, senior midfielder Dana Fujikuni, and sophomore forward Rola Badawiya. Gonzales led the Big West in goals (11) and points (25) during her junior campaign in 2016 and has already written her name in the conference record book with 13 game-winning goals, the seventh-most all-time. The forward also led the conference with 29 shots on goal and three penalty kicks in as many chances. She was also selected to the MAC Hermann Trophy Preseason Watch List early last season, given to the nation’s top collegiate women’s soccer player.
Cal State Fullerton comes off of its fourth Big West Tournament title in five years and its eighth NCAA Tournament appearance all-time. Senior defender Nano Oronoz, junior forwards Atlanta Primus and Maddie Bennett and sophomore midfielder Haley Brown highlight Fullerton’s returning cast that went 12-6-4 overall and 4-3-1 in league. The Titans made Big West history as the first team to qualify for the Big West Tournament in six consecutive seasons. Expect a fast start and good defense from the Titans as they went 5-0-0 to open their campaign a year ago and recorded the second-most shutouts in the league with nine.
The coaches also voted for a 11-player all-conference team that revealed top talent throughout the league with representation from seven programs. Long Beach State placed three on the squad (Chloe Froment, Ashley Gonzales, Katie Pingel) while Cal State Fullerton (Nano Oronoz, Atlanta Primus) and CSUN (Marissa Favela, Lindsay Kutscher) had two. Cal Poly’s Chelsea Barry, UC Davis’ Alexis Smith, UC Santa Barbara’s Mallory Hromatko and Hawaii’s Raisa Strom-Okimoto rounded out the list.