FRISCO – Looking to build off last season’s unexpected finish, the Sam Houston State women’s soccer team has been tabbed to finish 10th in the Southland Conference preseason poll in 2019, the league announced Thursday.

Abilene Christian is favored to claim the Southland Conference regular-season title after winning the league’s postseason tournament as the fifth seed in 2018. The Wildcats earned 11 first-place votes and 227 total points to garner the top spot, followed closely by defending regular-season champion Central Arkansas with 10 first-place votes and 225 total points. Lamar accounted for the other three top votes and came in at third with 206 points.

The Bearkats went 3-12-3 last season, losing five games by two goals or less, to finish 11th in the SLC. Sam Houston State returns 16 letterwinners, including six seniors, and has 11 newcomers.

“The Southland Conference is always full of tough and competitive games,” head coach Tom Brown said. “Our team will be focused on changing our results from last season. The team made a lot of positive strides during the spring, and I am looking forward to seeing how that plays out in conference play.”

Abilene Christian placed a league-high eight student-athletes on the preseason all-conference teams, including five on the top squad. The Wildcats return all but three players who took the field in the 2018 Southland Soccer Tournament championship match, where they defeated No. 7 Stephen F. Austin 3-1 to earn the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

McNeese was voted to the fourth-place spot with 163 points while Houston Baptist rounds out the top five with 146. Stephen F. Austin ranked right behind in sixth place with 142 points, followed by Southeastern Louisiana (133), Northwestern State (94) and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (86). Sam Houston State (85), UIW (55) and Nicholls (22) round out the preseason poll. 

The Southland Conference preseason poll is voted on by each head coach and soccer sports information director. Each voter ranks their predicted order of regular-season finish, not including their own team. First-place votes are worth 11 points, second-place votes are worth 10, and so on to one point for 11th place.

The 2019 season gets underway Aug. 22 with four matches including Houston at Sam Houston State (6:30 p.m.). The Bearkats will host the University of the Southwest in an exhibition contest Aug. 14.