There are some gaps in the roster from a year ago.
Missouri Southern soccer coach Alese Woolard watched seven seniors cross the stage and exit following the university’s graduation ceremony in May.
But the Lions also return several key players from a team which finished strong as runnerup in the MIAA Postseason Tournament.
Players who provided depth last fall will be expected to play greater roles this season, Woolard said. The Lions also have two transfers who spent last season with the club, but weren’t immediately eligible, and another who could impact the offense.
So when the Lions were selected fifth in the preseason poll of conference coaches, Woolard admitted to mixed emotions. On one hand, it’s about where she expected to be, on paper. But it’s also a little disappointing, she indicated.
Defending MIAA champion Central Missouri is the preseason favorite and received all 12 possible first-place votes in the poll.
Central Oklahoma, one of four schools new to the MIAA this academic year, was second in the poll and traditional power Truman State was third, just five points behind the Bronchos.
Northwest Missouri nipped the Lions 96-94 for fourth in the poll.
“The new teams change the dynamics of our conference,” Woolard said. “Central (Oklahoma) and Northeastern State have strong programs. ... Also, Northwest (Missouri) returns quite a few players and they ended the season pretty well.”
Lindenwood (Mo.) and Nebraska-Kearney are the other MIAA newcomers.
Last season, Missouri Southern started poorly (0-7-1), but finished strong (9-10-1). The Lions were 6-2 in the conference and reached the title game in the postseason tournament.
Returning senior starters include Candis Clark, Alicia Vonderheid, Corinne Tebbs, Megan Stueve and Cortney Sanders. Stueve had seven goals and two assists last year and Tebbs led the Lions with nine assists.
Tebbs was a second-team all-MIAA selection and Stueve earned honorable mention.
Junior Dana Wilhelm was a regular and junior goalkeeper Abby Risner and sophomore Samantha Zoltanski were parttime starters a year ago.
Senior Natascha Lord and junior Ali Amayo sat out the season as transfers, Lord from Culver-Stockton and Joplin native Amayo from Oral Roberts. In addition, junior forward Tiffany Laughlin will join the Lions, transferring from Missouri State.
“We did lose some players, but we have the depth to fill those gaps,” Woolard said. “We have some very good freshmen who are coming in, as well.”
And fifth in the poll?
“It’s motivation,” she said.
The Lions open their season on Aug. 31 at Missouri-St. Louis. Their home opener is Sept. 7, against Southern Nazarene.
Southern’s MIAA debut comes on Sept. 14 at Central Oklahoma.
MIAA soccer poll
The MIAA soccer coaches preseason poll, with first-place votes in parentheses and total points (coaches did not vote for their team):
1, Central Missouri (12) 144
2, Central Oklahoma 130
3, Truman State (1) 125
4, Northwest Missouri 96
5, Missouri Southern 94
6, Northeastern State 77
7, Fort Hays State 74
8, Southwest Baptist 58
9, Nebraska-Kearney 57
10, Lindenwood 50
11, Emporia State 46
12, Washburn 37
13, Missouri Western 26