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Big Rapids, Mich. - After back-to-back appearances in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) Tournament Semifinals, the Ferris State University women's soccer program will begin the 2014 campaign among the top contenders in the league as FSU was picked fourth of 13 schools in the GLIAC Preseason Coaches Poll announced Tuesday.
The league's 13 head coaches participated in the balloting, but were not allowed to vote for their team. The announcement of this year's preseason poll was made in conjunction with the launch of the GLIAC Soccer Media Day website, which includes videos, infographics, team prognosis and more.
Grand Valley State, nationally ranked number one in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) preseason poll, pulled away from Michigan Tech University by 18 points and is the favorite to repeat as league champions as the Lakers collected 10 of the 13 first-place votes. GVSU returns 14 letterwinners, including seven starters, from last season's club, which defeated West Florida 2-0 in the 2013 NCAA Championship match to cap a 24-0-1 campaign and claim the program's third national title in the last five years.
Michigan Tech finished second in the preseason poll, receiving 123 points and three first-place votes. Ohio Dominican was voted third in the polls with 112 points. Meanwhile, Ferris State was voted fourth and tallied 107 points, followed closely by Ashland at 105 points.
Northern Michigan collected 91 points to finish sixth in the polls with Saginaw Valley State University falling just one point shy in seventh with 90 points. Tied with 59 points were Northwood and Findlay, with the Timberwolves edging out the Oilers for the eight spot based on the 2013 final standings. Walsh finished 10th in the polls with 45 points, while Tiffin grabbed 40 points to finish 11th. Lake Erie earned 25 points for a 12th-place finish and rounding out the coaches poll was Malone University, tallying 17 points.
The Ferris State women's soccer team will enter its second campaign under head coach Andy McCaslin with a strong nucleus returning for the 2014 season. A total of 16 letterwinners are back this fall, including a pair of All-GLIAC honorees in junior forward Nichole Boehnke and junior midfielder Abby Meirndorf. FSU also welcomes back its top nine overall scorers from 2013 and the returners accounted for 29 of Ferris State's 30 goals last season.
The Bulldog women's soccer team starts the year on Sept. 5 as FSU squares off against Truman State (Mo.) in the Ramada Plaza Invitational hosted by GVSU starting at 4:30 p.m. (ET) in Allendale. FSU then faces Quincy (Ill.) on Sept. 7 in the same event before taking on Saginaw Valley State in the home opener on Sept. 14 at the FSU Soccer Fied. The 2014 campaign will represent the 16th season of Bulldog women's soccer since the program's inception in 1999.
On the women's soccer pitch, the Bulldogs posted a second consecutive winning campaign for the first time in school history last year while reaching the league tournament semifinals for only the third time in the program's 15 years. Last season also marked Ferris State's fourth consecutive conference tournament appearance, which is the longest stretch in school history. FSU's trip to the semifinals also represented the first time in school history in which the Bulldogs have advanced to the second round of the conference tournament in back-to-back years.
FSU closed the 2013 campaign with a 7-1 overall record at home last season and the lone loss was a 1-0 non-conference setback to rival and eventual national champion Grand Valley State. Overall, FSU outscored the opponents by a 23-4 count in Big Rapids with five shutouts. Last fall also represented only the sixth time in the program's 15-year history in which the Bulldogs have won at least nine contests in a season.