The American Southwest Conference earlier this week released its preseason women's soccer poll, with the Howard Payne Lady Jackets projected to finish 10th out of 13 conference teams.
The Lady Jackets are coming off a 5-11-1 campaign in 2016, including a 3-7-1 mark against ASC foes in head coach Brandon Badgeley's first season. Howard Payne received 112 points in the poll, placing it ahead of 11th-place Belhaven (6-11, 102 points), 12th-place McMurry (1-16, 1-10, 72 points) and 13th-place Louisiana College (0-15-2, 0-11, 39 points).
Hardin-Simmons (20-1-2, 11-0) is the overwhelming preseason favorite in the ASC, receiving 336 points and 24 of 26 first-place votes. UT-Tyler (14-3-1, 9-1-1) is second with 299 points and a first-place vote, followed by Mary Hardin-Baylor (13-4-2, 9-1-1) with 291 points and fourth-place UT-Dallas (12-7-1, 7-3-1) with the final first-place vote and 255 points. The rest of the poll includes fifth-place East Texas Baptist (6-8-4, 4-5-2, 196 points), sixth-place Sul Ross (6-9-1, 4-6-1, 188 points), seventh-place Concordia (8-7-1, 6-5, 180 points), eighth-place LeTourneau (8-9-1, 4-6-1, 160 points) and ninth-place Ozarks (6-10-3, 3-6-2, 117 points).
Also, Lady Jacket junior forward Rachel Crane, junior goal keeper Nicole Goodwin and sophomore midfielder Kaitlyn Harrison were three of 39 players named to the ASC watch list. The ASC preseason players of the year are Hardin-Simmons senior forward Kami Jones on offense and Hardin-Simmons senior defender Kirsten Parrish on defense.
The Lady Jackets open the regular season in Maryville, Tennessee with matches against Maryville College on Sept. 1 and Piedmont College Sept. 2. Howard Payne's home opener takes place Sept. 7 against Jarvis Christian College, while the ASC opener is at Ozarks Sept. 14.
The ASC Championship Tournament is scheduled for Oct. 31, Nov. 3 and 5. The quarterfinals will be hosted by the top four seeds with the semifinals and championship game at the overall No. 1 seed. An automatic berth into the NCAA Division III Women's Soccer Championship will be on the line.