ASHEVILLE — The St. Andrews University women’s soccer team won the Appalachian Athletic Conference championship last season, but conference coaches tabbed the Knights to finish fifth in this year’s preseason poll.
Reinhardt, the program that defeated St. Andrews in the conference tournament championship game last season, is the overwhelming favorite to take the regular season crown from the Knights.
The Eagles garnered all but one of the first-place votes and topped the AAC poll with 120 points while Tennessee Wesleyan followed in second with 105 points.
Two schools, Point and Truett-McConnell, tied for third with 86 points, one point ahead of St. Andrews. The Knights were the only other team to receive a first-place vote.
Last year, the Knights had a breakthrough campaign, recording a 14-3-2 record and finishing one game away from an NAIA tournament bid.
However, there was a leadership change in the offseason as former Knights’ coach Rick Parlow accepted the head position at Converse College in Spartanburg, South Carolina, leaving St. Andrews after a successful three-year stint at the school.
Parlow’s move to the NCAA Division II program came after helping improve St. Andrews’s record each season he was at the helm. When he took over in 2012, the Knights finished with a 2-15 record. He guided them to a 5-9-3 mark in his inaugural year and a 7-11 record in his second season.
The Knights were quick to hire a replacement, announcing the decision to turn the program over to Aaron Wood who has served as an SAU men’s soccer assistant for the past three seasons.
Wood will look to bring the same success he enjoyed with the men’s team — last season under head coach Stevan Hernandez, St. Andrews finished 17-2-1, winning the AAC regular season and conference tournament championships. The Knights advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NAIA Nationals, where they were defeated in overtime by eventual champion Davenport University.
Columbia (62 points), Montreat (60), and Milligan (53) were picked to finished sixth, seventh and eighth respectively. Bryan (28) and Bluefield (12) rounded out the poll.
St. Andrews is set to open its season Sept. 2 on the road against the Savannah College of Art and Design.
Logan Martinez can be reached at 910-506-3170. Follow him on Twitter @L_Martinez13.