FLORENCE, Ky. — Asbury (Ky.) University edged out a crowded top half of the 2016 River States Conference Women’s Soccer Preseason Coaches’ Poll to claim preseason favorite honors, the league office announced on Friday.
Asbury, which claimed first place in the regular season last year at 12-5-1 overall and 7-1 conference, received the most points and a league-high four first-place votes in the polling of the conference head coaches.
The nine first-place votes were spread among four different teams, and the top four teams were separated by just eight points in the voting. Asbury’s 57 points edged out Point Park (Pa.) University with 53 points (2 first-place votes), the University of Rio Grande (Ohio) with 51 points (1 first-place vote) and WVU Tech with 49 points (2 first-place votes).
The River States Conference was formerly known as the Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference but changed its name in a rebranding effort effective July 1, 2016.
The top four teams in the preseason poll reflect the KIAC Tournament semifinalists from last year. Point Park came out on top as KIAC Tournament champion after beating Rio Grande in the semis and WVU Tech in the finals. WVU Tech reached the finals with a semifinal upset at Asbury.
Point Park won its first conference title and made its first NAIA National Championship Opening Round appearance last year. The Pioneers were 12-7-2 overall, 6-2 KIAC and ended the year in the “receiving votes” category of the NAIA Top 25 Poll.
Rio Grande’s KIAC Tournament semifinal appearance came along with a final record of 8-10 overall, 6-2 KIAC last year. WVU Tech had the most overall wins in the conference with a record of 14-6 overall, 5-3 KIAC in 2015. The Golden Bears reached the conference finals as the No. 4 seed.
Ohio Christian University would have been a playoff team last year at 11-9 overall, 5-3 KIAC, but the Trailblazers were not eligible for conference or national postseason as first-year NAIA members. OCU took fifth place in this year’s preseason poll with 35 points.
Cincinnati Christian University is sixth in the poll and received 26 points. The Eagles are coming off a season of 5-13 overall, 3-5 KIAC. Carlow (Pa.) University is right behind in seventh place with 25 points after a 7-9, 3-5 KIAC campaign in 2015.
Midway (Ky.) University (17 points) and Brescia (Ky.) University (11 points) round out the preseason voting in the nine-team conference. The top six teams make the River States Conference Tournament, and the champion automatically qualifies for the NAIA National Championship Opening Round.
Randy Payton is the Sports Information Director for the University of Rio Grande.