As the season gets started this week, there’s pretty broad disagreement over who will be the best women’s team in the Great Lakes Valley Conference.
Nationally, the NSCAA Coaches figure conference defending champions Wisconsin Parkside, with the incredible season the rangers had last year going undefeated in conference play and finishing the year 18-1-3 overall, are best in the league. They’ve put Parkside at No. 9 in the national poll, highest in the GLVC.
And the Rangers are BennettRank’s highest ranked team in the GLVC at No. 17.
But the coaches in the conference think three other sides will be better.
The GLVC coaches picked BR-56 Bellarmine to finish first in the conference, and the Knights are also coming off a pretty good year under second year head coach Chris Tinius. The Knights got nine of the 16 total first place votes.
The Knights lost just once in GLVC play last year, finishing 11-1-3 in the conference en route to a 14-4-3 overall finish, and return several key players, including two-time All-GLVC first teamers Mary Beth Gorham and Lauren Holder and second team all conference selection, goalkeeper Hannah Poteet.
But even Tinius takes the conference coaches’ selection with a grain of salt, though he’s honored to have the Knights recognized.
“On one hand, it is obviously a sign of respect from the other coaches in the league and what they think of our program, which is always a good feeling,” Tinius said in a story on the team’s website. “Honestly, it may be as much a sign of respect for last year’s team as this year’s, which brings me to the other side of this: Preseason polls are guesses and different people base their guesses on different criteria, so you can only put so much stock in these things.
“A prime example of that is the fact that Wisconsin-Parkside is ranked No. 9 in the national preseason poll but picked fourth in our league,” Tinius said. “That’s a pretty good team to be picked fourth in the league.”
Wisconsin Parkside starts the year in an unusual place – not only not being ranked top by the other coaches in the conference, but starting its campaign for the first time in 17 years without Coach Troy Fabiano on the sideline. Fabiano left to take the head coaching job at UW-Milwaukee after 16 straight winning seasons leading the Rangers. Parkside this year will hit the pitch under new head coach Brittany Nikolic. The former standout player at Stanford comes to Parkside after six years as head coach at DIII Alverno College in Milwaukee.
GLVC coaches picked BR-37 Rockhurst to finish second behind Bellarmine. Rockhurst is coming off a 14-2-3 year, but will miss Taylor Skala, the GLVC’s female athlete of the year last season.
Third in the GLVC coaches poll is BR-59 Truman State. The Bulldogs are coming off a 13-5-2 season in which they advanced to the conference semifinal and they return eight starters this year.
“With the competiveness in the GLVC, it’s really anybody’s guess,” Bellarmine’s Tinius told the BU website. “Last year, Missouri S&T finished seventh in the regular season and was playing as well as anyone at the end of the year making it to the conference championship game. There are multiple teams from our league that are good enough to compete in the NCAA Tournament. With that type of competition on a daily basis, it’s all about who can stay relatively healthy and catch a few breaks along the way.”