The Long Beach State (LBSU) women’s soccer team has been ranked No. 18 in the nation in a preseason poll by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA).
LBSU is coming off from its best season in program history as the 49ers finished with an overall record of 18-6-1, marking the program’s sixth 10-win campaign in the last seven years. The 18 wins also eclipsed the previous single-season record of 16, which the 2006, 2008 and 2010 squads had established.
Additionally, the 49ers defended their Big West Conference (BWC) Tournament title to advance to the NCAA Tournament for the second straight season (third time in four years), and recorded the program’s first postseason victory at No. 7 Pepperdine in the first of three victories that saw LBSU advance to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Division I tournament.
The 49ers finished the 2011 season ranked 14th in the final NSCAA national poll, marking the first time in school history LBSU has been ranked at the end of the season.
Last year’s national champion Stanford took the top spot while the 49ers’ Elite Eight opponent and national runner-up Duke was selected No. 2. Wake Forest, Florida State, Oklahoma State, UCLA, Virginia, North Carolina, Penn State and Pepperdine rounded out the top 10. One of the opponents LBSU will be facing this year, Texas A&M (Sept. 7), came in tied at No. 14 with Memphis.
LBSU was the only team from the BWC picked in the top 25 poll while the Pac-12 (Stanford, UCLA) and West Coast conferences (Pepperdine, Santa Clara) had two teams each.
In a preseason vote by the BWC coaches, the LBSU women were picked to finish first in the conference standings in 2012.
The 49ers received nine of the 10 first-place votes for a total of 99 points. This is the first time since the 2007 season they are favored to win the conference. LBSU captured five first-place votes (77 points) in 2007 and three votes (56 points) in 2006, when the 49ers were also picked to finish in first.
UC Irvine was selected to finish in second, grabbing the other first place vote with 86 points, followed by Cal State Fullerton in third with 71. Cal State Northridge was picked to finish in fourth with 69 points with UC Santa Barbara in fifth with 53 points. Cal Poly grabbed the sixth spot (48), while UC Davis and Pacific were tied for seventh (44), and UC Riverside and conference newcomer Hawai’i were paired for the ninth position (18).
Returning players Nadia Link and Alex Balcer were two of 12 players tabbed for the Big West Preseason All-Conference Team.
Link was named BWC Offensive Player of the Year, first-team All-West Region and was a first-team All-Big West selection in 2011. The senior forward amassed 16 goals, 10 assists and 42 points. She tied the 27-year old school record for goals in a season and became just the third 49er, and first since the program was reinstated in 1998, to reach double figures in both goals and assists. Link was named to 2011 NSCAA/Continental Tire NCAA Women’s Division I All-America Team, becoming the third All-American in school history.
Balcer was a first-team All-Big West and second-team All-West Region pick and was named the 2011 Big West Tournament MVP. The senior defender helped anchor a 49er defense that posted a league-best 12 shutouts and 0.79 goals against average. Balcer recorded one goal and four assists last season. Balcer was named to the 2011 NSCAA Women’s College Scholar All-America Team and was selected to the University Division Third Team.
The 49ers will officially open the 2012 campaign on Friday, Aug. 17, at George Allen Field as they host Pac-12 member Arizona.