By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications
SALEM, Ore. -- Willamette University, which finished last season with a strong 13-4-3 overall record, is tied for fourth place in the 2018 NWC Women's Soccer Preseason Poll in voting by the NWC head coaches. The Bearcats placed fourth in the NWC with a 10-4-2 record in 2017. Willamette was listed seventh in the West Region Rankings at the end of the regular season.
Pacific Lutheran University, which won the 2017 NWC Championship at 13-2-1 and finished the year with a 17-3-2 overall record, was picked to finish first in this year's Preseason Poll. The Lutes received seven of nine first place votes and 63 points. PLU was eliminated from the NCAA Division III Tournament in the second round by California Lutheran University in a shootout following a scoreless tie in regulation and two overtimes.
University of Puget Sound placed second in the poll with the two remaining first place votes and 55 points. Last year, the Loggers were 13-4-3 overall and tied for second in the NWC at 11-3-2.
Listed third in this year's poll was Whitworth University with 53 points. Whitworth went 12-6-2 overall in 2017 and tied with Puget Sound for second place in the NWC at 11-3-2.
Willamette and Linfield College shared fourth place with 38 points in the poll. The Bearcats earned nine shutouts last season and held opponents to just 15 goals in 20 games. Meanwhile, Willamette scored 34 goals, let by Emmy Manset ('18), who was named First Team All-NWC after leading the NWC with 13 goals. Linfield earned a 9-9-2 record last fall, including a 7-7-2 mark in the conference.
Following Willamette and Linfield in the Preseason Poll was George Fox University in sixth place with 31 points. In 2017, the Bruins were just under .500 overall at 8-9-2. George Fox earned a 6-8-2 record in the NWC. Seventh place in the poll went to Whitman College. The Blues received 18 points in the poll after going 2-16-2 overall last year, including a tie for seventh in the NWC at 2-12-2.
Lewis & Clark College was ranked eighth in this year's poll at 15 points. In 2017, L&C tied GFU for seventh place in the NWC with a 2-12-2 record. The Pioneers were 3-14-3 on the season. Pacific University rounded out this year's poll in ninth place with 13 points. Pacific was 1-15-4 overall last year, including 1-12-3 in the NWC.
Top returning offensive threats for Willamette are Shanna Keil (Jr., F, Danville, CA/San Ramon Valley HS) and Lacey Jones (So., F, Portland, OR/David Douglas HS). Keil provided the Bearcats with six goals and five assists last season for 17 total points, as she earned Second Team All-NWC honors. She placed 20 of her 37 shots on target and took a team-high 26 corner kicks. She registered four game-winning goals. Jones supplied a strong freshman season in 2017 with three goals -- two were game-winners -- while playing in 18 games.
Goalkeeper Kristen Barclay (Jr., GK, Kenmore, WA/Cedar Park Christian School) attained an 11-4-3 record in 2017. She competed in all 20 games with 19 starts. She registered 68 saves. Barclay recorded five solo shutouts and shared four shutouts with other WU goalies.
Annie Strom (Jr., D, Mount Vernon, WA/Mount Vernon HS) and Hannah Deighton (Jr., D, Long Beach, CA/Long Beach Polytechnic HS) return as talented leaders on defense. Strom was chosen Second Team All-NWC in the midfield last season, while Deighton received Honorable Mention All-NWC honors. Strom was an important link for the team between defense and offense. She played in 19 games with 17 starts and contributed two assists. Deighton scored one goal, and joined Manset as the only Bearcats to start all 20 games. Willamette shut out nine opponents in 2017, while while holding seven teams to a single goal.
Head Coach Hillary Arthur is in her 11th season with the Bearcats. Willamette will open Northwest Conference action with a game against Linfield College on Wednesday, Sept. 12 at Sparks Field. Kickoff is set for 5 p.m. (PDT). The Bearcats will play at Lewis & Clark on Sept. 15, before hosting a four-game homestand against NWC opponents. Willamette will take on Puget Sound at Sparks Field on Sept. 22, followed by George Fox on Sept. 23, Whitworth on Sept. 29 and Whitman on Sept. 30.
Willamette is scheduled to travel to Tacoma, Washington, to battle Pacific Lutheran on Oct. 6, and will host Pacific in Salem, Oregon, on Oct. 7. The match-up with Pacific ends a stretch in which the Bearcats play 10 of their first 12 regular season games at home.
2018 NWC Women's Soccer Preseason Poll (1st place votes in parentheses)
1. Pacific Lutheran (7), 63 points, 17-3-2 overall, 13-2-1 in NWC in 2017
2. Puget Sound (2), 55 points, 13-4-3 overall, 11-3-2 in NWC
3. Whitworth, 53 points, 12-6-2 overall, 11-3-2 in NWC
4. (tie) Willamette, 38 points, 13-4-3 overall, 10-4-2 in NWC
(tie) Linfield, 38 points, 9-9-2 overall, 7-7-2 in NWC
6. George Fox, 31 points, 8-9-2 overall, 6-8-2 in NWC
7. Whitman, 18 points, 2-16-2 overall, 2-12-2 in NWC
8. Lewis & Clark, 15 points, 3-14-3 overall, 2-12-2 in NWC
9. Pacific, 13 points, 1-15-4 overall, 1-12-3 in NWC
Note: Points were awarded on an 8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 basis. Coaches could not vote for their own team.