FAYETTEVILLE – The University of Arkansas soccer team was voted to finish fourth in the Southeastern Conference’s Western Division by the league’s coaches in their annual preseason poll.
Tabulating 27 points, Arkansas ranks ahead of both Alabama and Mississippi State in their division as each recorded 23 points, and sits just behind LSU for third (31). Mississippi was picked to win the division by seven of the league’s coaches while Auburn picked up five first-place votes and ranks second.
“I think that this is about right,” first-year head coach Gordon Henderson said. “There is really nothing surprising about this. I think that it would be interesting to see how they would rank all 12 teams regardless of division. In terms of the west, Ole Miss and Auburn have elevated their programs and the challenge is for others to emulate that.”
The Lady Razorbacks enter the season after going 7-10-2 in 2003, with a 3-6-0 conference record. Returning eight starters from last year’s team and 14 letterwinners should give Arkansas the experience it needs to win the close games and compete for a berth in the SEC Championship Tournament in November.
Leading the way for the Lady Razorbacks in 2004 could be the central midfield combination of junior Megan McCool and sophomore Christina Burger. Already tabbed as one of the formidable duo’s in the conference, McCool has been a consistent scorer for Arkansas over the past two seasons, and is known for her knack to find the back of the net during the SEC season. Burger is Arkansas’ leading returning scorer after she netted a half dozen goals as a freshman in 2003.
Over in the Eastern Division, Tennessee was chosen to repeat as both the divisional champion and tournament champion. Picking up nine first-place votes for the division crown and eight for the league title, Florida was the only eastern division school to receive first-place votes. Georgia, Kentucky, Vanderbilt and South Carolina round out the eastern division.
The Lady Razorbacks begin their 2004 journey on Friday night when they travel to Cape Girardeau, Mo., to take on the Southeast Missouri State Ohtakians in the season opener. Following the contest, Arkansas returns home to face a tough Tulsa squad at Lady’Back Field at 1:00 p.m.
|Ole Miss (7)||57||4-3-2||.556||15-6-2||.696|
|SEC Champion: Tennesee (8), Florida (4)|
|First-place votes in parentheses|