Cumberland received three first-place votes and was picked second in the Mid-South Conference women’s soccer preseason coaches’ poll released Tuesday by the league office.
The Bulldogs and fifth-year head coach Gavin McKinney opened practice this week with nine starters and 15 total letterwinners returning from last year’s club that finished 16-4-1 overall, including a perfect 9-0-0 mark and the school’s first-ever regular season conference championship. The club put together a 12-match unbeaten streak from Sept. 10-Oct. 26 last year, defeating top-ranked Lindsey Wilson and playing to a scoreless draw against No. 9 Martin Methodist during the stretch.
Cumberland lost in overtime in the finals of the conference tournament to Lindsey Wilson but won a match in the NAIA Championship Opening Round for the second straight season – 1-0 versus Ottawa – before falling in extra time to 11th-ranked Davenport in the round of 16 of the NAIA Championships in Orange Beach, Ala.
Mid-South Conference Player of the Year Taylor Nay returns for the Bulldogs after posting 13 goals and 14 assists in 2013 along with All-Americans Lindsey Kitson (second team) and Olivia Chu (third team). Kitson registered a 0.94 goals-against-average with 11 shutouts last season while Chu recorded eight goals and three assists as a freshman.
McKinney has seven total seniors on the club who have played 338 career matches, including three-year starters Kitson, Mackenzie Keele, Kaitlin Phillips, Shauna Gilpin, Beth Morgan and Reneé LaRose. Gilpin heads into the season with 33 goals and 17 assists in her career while Phillips has 20 career assists. Keele, Morgan and LaRose have all been part of the club’s backline along with Kitson throughout their careers, helping the Bulldogs allow just 54 goals in 60 matches over the last three years.
Lindsey Wilson received five first-place votes and 47 total points for first place in the poll, with Cumberland getting the other three first-place votes and 44 total points. Campbellsville ranked third, with Georgetown College and St. Catharine tied for fourth. Shawnee State, the University of the Cumberlands and Pikeville round out the poll.
Cumberland will continue workouts twice a day in Lebanon through Saturday before heading to Destin, Fla., next week to finish preseason training. The Bulldogs will open the season at home Aug. 27 at 4 p.m. versus Tennessee Wesleyan.