The Sacramento State women's soccer team was chosen fifth in the Big Sky preseason poll.
The Sacramento State women's soccer team was chosen fifth in the Big Sky preseason poll.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - The Sacramento State women's soccer team tied with Northern Arizona for fifth in the 2012 Big Sky Conference women's soccer preseason coaches poll, the league announced on Thursday.

The Hornets, who are coming off a 6-9-2 season with a 2-3-2 conference mark, finished in sixth place in 2011 and missed the cut for the Big Sky Conference Tournament after winning the league's postseason championship and advancing to the NCAA Tournament a year earlier in 2010.

Portland State was picked first, followed by Northern Colorado, Montana and Weber State. However, UNC had the most first-place votes with four while the Vikings and Griz were tied with two each. In what should be a wide-open league, six teams all finished with more than 50 points. 

Last season Portland State and Northern Colorado tied for the regular season title while Montana took home the postseason championship and advanced to the NCAA Tournament. The Vikings return five starters and 12 letterwinners off their 2011 roster, including Big Sky Offensive MVP, senior forward Megan Martin. Reigning Big Sky coach of the year Tim Barrera and Northern Colorado bring back seven starters from last season, including Big Sky Defensive MVP, senior defender Aundreaha Martinez.

The Hornets and Northern Arizona tied for fifth after both posted two conference wins a season ago. While Sacramento State tallied six wins overall opposed to NAU's three, the Lumberjacks set a Big Sky record last year with seven draws. 

Idaho State, Eastern Washington and Big Sky Conference newcomers North Dakota and Southern Utah round out the bottom of the poll. 

Sacramento State returns 18 players from last season's roster, including 10 letterwinners. The Hornets also welcome 11 newcomers to the team, with nine true freshmen and two Div. I transfers.

Head coach Randy Dedini, in his sixth season at the helm of the program, and the Hornets will have to replace six starters off last year's team, including first team all-conference defender Shea Roberts. Dedini will also have to find a new keeper, as four-year starting goalie Savannah Abercrombie, who set a Big Sky Conference and school record with 29 career shutouts, graduated last year.

Sacramento State has two exhibition games this weekend, at Pacific on Friday and home for the Sacramento Storm on Sunday, before opening up the regular season with three straight home games.

The Hornets begin the 2012 campaign with Nevada on Aug. 19 before hosting rival UC Davis on Aug. 24 and Cal Poly on Aug. 26.


Team Points
1. Portland State 68 (2)
2. Northern Colorado 66 (4)
3. Montana 64 (2)
4. Weber State 58 (1)
5. Sacramento State 50
    Northern Arizona 50 (1)
7. Idaho State 39
8. Eastern Washington 23
9. North Dakota 16
    Southern Utah 16
(First-place votes in parenthesis)