BRENTWOOD, Tenn. – The University of Tennessee at Martin soccer team has been picked to win the 2013 Ohio Valley Conference women’s soccer title as voted on by the league’s head coaches and sports information directors. The Skyhawks, who won their second OVC regular-season and tournament title last year, received 18 of the 22 first-place votes and 198 points. Austin Peay picked up the remaining four first-place nods and 177 points for a second-place predicted finish while Southeast Missouri earned 148 points to be selected to finish third. Eastern Kentucky garnered 137 points to be picked to place fourth while SIUE received 133 points to round out the top five. Belmont (119), Jacksonville State (84), Morehead State (71), Eastern Illinois (60), Tennessee Tech (44) and Murray State (35) complete the poll.
UT Martin is coming off a season in which it went 13-6-3 overall and 8-1-1 in the OVC to become the fifth team in league history to claim both the regular-season and tournament crowns in the same year. Phil McNamara, who was named the 2012 OVC Coach of the Year, is entering his fourth year as the head coach of the Skyhawks. He will have eight starters among 16 returning players from last year’s squad. Included in the returners is sophomore forward Saphyra Coombs-James (Brampton, Ontario). Coombs-James was named the OVC Freshman of the Year after ranking second in the league in points per game (1.20 ppg), total points (24), goals per game (0.50 gpg) and total goals (10). Senior midfielder Hannah McGowen, a native of Murfreesboro, Tenn., also returns to the field this season. McGowen was named to the All-OVC first team after scoring three goals and recording six assists. Junior goalkeeper Mariah Klenke (Highland, Ill.) will be back in net this year after playing 22 games and recording six shutouts last season.
Austin Peay finished second in 2012 with a 7-2-1 OVC mark while going 12-8-1 overall. Kelly Guth enters her 12th season at the helm of the Lady Govs and will have the 2012 OVC Player of the Year returning in senior forward Tatiana Ariza. The Bogota, Colombia native led the OVC in shots (75), shots per game (3.95), points (32), points per game (1.68), goals (12), goals per game (1.68), assists (8), assists per game (0.42) and game winning goals (4). All-OVC First Team selection Natalia Ariza (Bogota, Colombia) will also be returning this year. The senior midfielder played in 19 games in 2012 and posted three assists. Senior goalkeeper Haylee Shoaff is also back for the Lady Govs this season. The Coral Springs, Fla., native, played in 21 matches in 2012 allowing 20 goals and making 103 saves. She also posted seven shutouts.
Southeast Missouri is picked to finish third after placing fourth last year with a 7-10-4 overall mark and a 5-3-2 OVC record. Heather Nelson is entering her 15th season as the head coach of the Redhawks and will have six starters among 14 letterwinners returning from last year’s team. Among the top returners are sophomore defender/midfielder Paige Luehmann. The Granite City, Ill. native led the team with four assists last year and was part of a defense that posted seven shutouts in 2012. Also back for the 2013 season will be senior goalkeeper Ashton Aubuchon (Florissant, Mo.) and sophomore forward Erin Shulman (Bloomington, Ill.). Aubuchon played in seven matches last season and made 32 saves. Shulman saw action in 18 matches last year recording one goal and one assist.
The 2013 season gets underway on Aug. 23 with conference play starting on Sept. 27. The 2013 OVC Soccer Championship will be held on Nov. 7-9, 10 on the campus of the regular-season champion.