It's August 1st, and so we launch our previews of the fall sports with an attempt to predict the Big East women's soccer preseason awards before the conference sneak attacks us and announces them before we're ready.
It's a highly technical and proprietary system that I use to predict who will be the individual award winners and all-conference team members. But sometimes, things are blatantly obvious as to how an award should go, and our first prediction is one of those.
Offensive Player Of The Year: Rachel Daly, F, St. John's
I mean, REALLY. Last season, Daly had more than twice as many goals (23) than the next closest person to her (10 from two different players), and she nearly pulled off the same trick on total points, finishing with an even 50 to 28 from both Butler's Sophia Maccagnone and Marquette's Maegan Kelly. Those numbers are both Red Storm records, and the goal total left Daly tied for the national lead in that category. Like I said, sometimes these things are blatantly obvious.
Defensive Player Of The Year: Georgia Kearney-Perry, D, St. John's
This one is less obvious, and not just because it's hard to quantify how well defensive players perform in soccer without access to everyone's game film. Kearney-Perry was on the all-Big East First Team at the end of last season, and is one of just three defenders on any of the three postseason all-conference teams who is returning in 2014. Shake in a Defensive Player of the Week and two Weekly Honor Rolls last year, and I think we've got our winner here. I don't think Butler's Serina Kashimoto has a chance to snag this one as a sophomore, but I wouldn't be surprised to see Rachel Pitman from DePaul end up with the honors.
Goalkeeper Of The Year: Emma Newins, Georgetown
This one I had to think about for a while. DePaul's Alejandria Godinez won Goalkeeper of the Year at the end of the 2013 season and for good reason. She had the best goals against average, best save percentage, and the most saves. So the question becomes: Can she do that again or did she just catch fire for a while? The math of playing behind a defense that forced Godinez to make nearly 6.5 saves per game isn't likely for her to do that again, especially with the graduation of all-Big East First Team defender Kylie Nordness. Newins finished the season with a goals-against average just one one-hundredth of a point higher than Godinez, 0.69 vs. 0.70, and I'm going to give credit to Newins for organizing a defense to protect her from facing shots. This debate could ultimately be proved completely pointless and it could go to Marquette's Amanda Engel, and no one would really think twice about it, especially since Engel allowed just three goals against Big East competition last year, and that includes 180 minutes of shutout soccer in the Big East tournament.
All Big East Team:
Emma Newins, GK, Georgetown
Rachel Daly, F, St. John's
Georgia Kearney-Perry, D, St. John's
Daphne Corboz, M, Georgetown
Sophia Maccagnone, M, Butler
Elise Kotsakis, F, Butler
Mary Luba, M, Marquette
Mady Vicker, F, Marquette
Rachel Pitman, D, DePaul
Serina Kashimoto, D, Butler
Audra Ayotte, F, Georgetown
Obviously, Daly, Kearney-Perry, and Newins earn their spots by way of their individual awards. Corboz was the 2013 Midfielder of the Year, and had she not missed a section of the early part of the season, she could have presented a challenge to Daly for the scoring title. I already mentioned Maccagnone's scoring prowess, and Kotsakis, Kashimoto, Luba, and Vicker were all-Big East Second Team performers one year ago. Pitman was on the all-conference third team, but last season's awards showed a tendency to spread things out amongst the positions, and I'm more than happy to follow that idea. Ayotte is my wild card, so to speak. Somehow, a forward that finished tied for 12th in goals with six, tied for second in assists with 10, and tied for fifth in total points was left off the all-conference squads. In fairness, Villanova's Katie Martin had the exact same stats and did earn a Third Team slot, but I'm going to give the spot to Ayotte. It's nothing more than bias for a senior against a sophomore.
Top Five Teams
3. St. John's
Marquette has five straight regular season titles and two straight conference tournament titles in their back pocket, but they're losing five players who were named to the all-conference teams a year ago, including Maegan Kelly, the program's all time assists leader. The pieces are there for Marquette to repeat for the sixth straight season, most notably with junior goalkeeper Engel returning along with the scoring clout of Luba and Vicker. However, with Newins back in net, along with Corboz, Ayotte, and Vanessa Skrumbis handling the scoring, I have to go with the Hoyas as the preseason pick. St. John's ends up in third on accident due to the combination of Daly and Kearney-Perry getting the individual awards, with DePaul, last year's tournament runner up, and a sneakily stacked Butler squad rounding out the top half of the league.