As the Howard Payne Lady Jackets prepare for their third soccer season, expectations have not only risen within the program, but throughout the conference.
The American Southwest Conference preseason poll, which was released Wednesday, projected an eighth-place finish for the Lady Jackets in the 14-team conference.
Third-year head coach Sam McCutchen led Howard Payne to a 5-11-1 overall record last season, including a 4-8-1 mark in conference action.
The Lady Jackets, who received 162 points in the poll, feature just two upperclassmen on the roster in senior midfielder Ashli McCutchen and junior midfielder Susana Chavarria. Fourteen freshmen and four sophomores comprise the rest of the 20-player roster.
Hardin-Simmons was projected to win its sixth straight ASC title as the Cowgirls (19-2-1, 13-0 in 2007) finished with 21 of 28 first-place votes.
Following in the second through seventh place spots were UT-Tyler (13-4-3, 9-1-3), UT-Dallas (13-5-3, 12-1-1), Texas Lutheran (11-7-1, 9-3-1), Mississippi College (13-6, 10-3), Mary Hardin-Baylor (8-10, 8-5) and Ozarks (7-6-4, 6-6-1).
Picked behind the Lady Jackets in the ninth through 14th slots were LeTourneau (7-13-1, 4-8-1), East Texas Baptist (4-13-2, 3-10), Louisiana College (6-13, 5-8), Schreiner (4-11-1, 3-9-1), McMurry (0-14-1, 0-12-1) and Concordia (2-12, 1-12).
Voted as the preseason players of the year were Texas Lutheran senior forward Kelli Layden on offense and UT-Tyler senior defender Kelly Buchanan on defense.