CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Charleston Southern has been picked to finish eighth in the race for the 2017 Big South women's soccer championship in voting by the league's head coaches, as announced by the conference office on Thursday afternoon.
Defending Big South tournament champion Liberty received eight of the 10 first place votes and totaled 98 points to edge out High Point for the top spot in the preseason poll. The Panthers, who won the 2016 regular season title, garnered the other two first place votes and finished with 92 points.
The top two were followed by Campbell (68), Radford (64), Longwood (62), Gardner-Webb (56), UNC Asheville (44), CSU (31), Winthrop (24) and Presbyterian (11).
Liberty's Jennifer Knoebel was chosen as the preseason player of the year while High Point's Alex Hank was tabbed as the favorite to take home defensive player of the year accolades.
The Buccaneers are coming off a 6-11-1 campaign which included a 2-6-1 slate in the Big South. CSU earned a spot in the conference tournament and dropped a narrow 1-0 decision to top-seeded High Point in the opening round.
The Bucs return seven players who started at least 10 games in 2016, a group led offensively by junior Jordan Newman (five goals, 11 points) and seniors Lydia Frierson and Kelly Hinkle, who tied for the team lead with three assists. CSU must replace Anna Sells, who finished her career tied for fourth in school history with 31 goals.
Junior goalkeeper Alyssa Dellacqua is back after registering 31 saves and a 2.22 goals against average in five starts a year ago. She will be aided on the strong CSU backline by juniors Taylor Francis and Grace Clark.
CSU plays a pair of exhibition games at home against USC Beaufort (Aug. 9) and USC Upstate (Aug. 12) before opening the regular season at Jacksonville on Aug. 20. The Bucs host South Carolina State in their home opener on Aug. 24.