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LOGAN -- The Utah State Aggies were picked first in the Western Athletic Conference preseason poll.
After two seasons of being picked to finish third, this is the highest preseason selection in the program's history. The Aggies look to repeat as WAC champions after finishing last season with a perfect 7-0-0 record.
"I am honored with the respect that our conference peers have in us based on our performance last year and the players we have returning," USU head coach Heather Cairns said. "At the same time, we are focusing on looking ahead. The team reported for preseason camp today with the goal of being the best team come the end of the season. We know there is a lot of work to be done, and that there will be a very competitive race for the conference title this year."
The Aggies return 12 letterwinners and seven starters from last year's team that finished 13-8-1 and advanced to the WAC Tournament championship match. USU brings back three seniors in defender Sydne Porter-Garner, midfielder Lindsey Smart and forward Erin Salmon. OF the seven starters returning, four were named to the all-WAC team last season in Smart, Chandra Salmon, Lauren Hansen and Shantel Flanary.
Utah State was picked sixth in the 2005 preseason poll, the Aggies' first year in the WAC, fourth in 2006 and third in both the 2007 and 2008 preseason prognostications.
Utah State led the conference with four on the 11-player preseason all-WAC team, including 2008 Freshman of the Year forward Shantel Flanary and 2008 all-WAC first-team selection midfielder Lindsey Smart. Midfielder Chandra Salmon and forward Lauren Hansen, 2008 all-WAC honorees, also received preseason all-WAC honors for the Aggies. Smart was one of only two seniors to make the squad along with Hawai‘i senior forward Ambree Ako. Both Smart and Ako earned preseason player of the year honors in 2008 with Smart taking Co-Defensive Player of the Year and Ako earning offensive honors.
Boise State junior forward Shannon Saxton was named Preseason Offensive Player of the Year, while Fresno State junior goalkeeper Kaitlyn Revel was named Preseason Defensive Player of Year.
Utah State garnered 61 points, including five of the nine first-place votes. Hawai‘i was picked second with 53 points, picking up two first-place votes. Fresno State earned the third-place spot with 49 points, garnering the two remaining first-place votes. Coaches cannot vote for their own team. Boise State (45 points), Nevada (39 points) and San Jose State (28 points) were picked to finish fourth, fifth and sixth, respectively. Louisiana Tech was chosen to finish in seventh place with 21 points, while Idaho was picked eighth with 15 points. In its first season, New Mexico State was picked ninth with 13 votes.
Four schools, Hawai‘i, Boise State, Nevada and San Jose State were picked in the exactly the same position as they were in 2008.
The Aggies open the 2009 season against Northern Arizona on Friday, Aug. 21 at Chuck and Gloria Bell Soccer Field at 4 p.m.
2009 WAC Soccer Preseason Coaches' Poll
- Utah State (5)
- Hawai'i (2)
- Fresno State (2)
- Boise State
- San Jose State
- Louisiana Tech
- New Mexico State
2009 Preseason All-WAC Team
Ambree Ako, F, Hawai'i, Sr.
Shantel Flanary, F, Utah State, So.
Lauren Hansen, F, Utah State, Jr.
Shannon Saxton, F, Boise State, Jr.
Cristen Drummond, MF, Nevada, Jr.
Mari Punzal, MF, Hawai‘i, Jr.
Chandra Salmon, MF, Utah State, So.
Chelsea Deptula, D, Hawai‘i, Jr.
Danielle Solich, D, Fresno State, So
Lindsey Smart, D, Utah State, Sr.
Kaitlyn Revel, GK, Fresno State, Jr.
Preseason Players of the Year
Offensive: Shannon Saxton, F, Boise State, Jr.
Defensive: Kaitlyn Revel, GK, Fresno State, Jr.