The soccer team will begin its fourth and final season in its transition to Div. I Tuesday when it takes on Midwestern State University in an exhibition game and the University of Texas at San Antonio in its regular season home opener Friday.
After finishing conference with a 7-2-2 record the Wildcats are gunning for the conference championship.
The Wildcats are picked by sports information directors and coaches to finish second in the conference behind Stephen F. Austin, and even received three first-place votes.
“I think it’s encouraging, and it’s also motivation to go get first this year,” sophomore midfielder Sophie Standifer said. “If we would have done the things we needed to do early on last season, we could have taken first. However, this is pure motivation and something for us to prove.”
Standifer and senior defender Kelsie Roberts were named to the Southland Conference preseason team for the 2016 campaign. Roberts limited opposing shooters to 15.1 shots per game along with a .115 shooting percentage in the 2015 season and helped anchor a stout ACU defense. Standifer came up big on the offensive end for the Wildcats last year including scoring a goal and earning an assist in the big win over UTSA and scoring the lone goal in their close 2-1 loss to the University of Texas.
“I think it’s a nice honor,” said Roberts. “I don’t think it’s pressure for me, I’m just glad to be recognized and it’s more of a motivator to me for this season.”
Last year the women lost a big game against Stephen F. Austin 2-0 which forced them to settle for third in the conference. This year the women find themselves ranked second to Stephen F. Austin in the polls providing them with even more motivation to earn the top spot.
“I’d like to beat Stephen F. Austin,” said Standifer. “They are the predicted top dogs in the conference and nobody thinks they can be beat so I would like to take them down.”
The Wildcats have some tough games lined up on the schedule for non-conference in 2016. The team had it’s experience with playing bigger schools last year in non conference and were strong in several of the games including their 5-3 win over UTSA, their close 2-1 loss against Texas, and another close loss against UTEP 1-0. This year the women will be facing big schools such as Texas Tech on September 4th, Oklahoma state on September 9th, and SMU on September 11th.
“I would like to beat Tech,” said Roberts. “It’s my senior season and I have played Tech every year so I would like to show off a bit and also let the other seniors have fun with the game.”
The women enter this season having closed out the last three seasons with a winning record. ACU has every bit motivation this, including 18 players returning to team.this year to take first place before fully transitioning to Div 1.
“We have been close the last three years,” said head coach Casey Wilson. “Two of the three years we have had the opportunity to win the conference, but we just got banged up towards the end, however being completely healthy and hitting our full stride before this season has helped us and any team can win on any given day in our conference.”