New Orleans - Denver is the preseason favorite to claim the 2011 Sun Belt Conference Women's Soccer Championship, and Louisiana is picked to finish 8th according to a vote of the league's 12 head coaches.  The preseason All Sun Belt team was also announced.

The Pioneers, who will be bidding for their eighth overall soccer title, earned seven of the 12 possible first place coaches’ votes for a total of 139 points. DU won the regular season title in 2010 before dropping the SBC Tournament title match to Middle Tennessee on penalty kicks.

FIU, picked to finish second by the coaches with 121 points, received one first place vote. FIU's Chelsea Leiva was named the league's Preseason Player of the Year after a freshman campaign where she earned co-Freshman of the Year honors with Denver's Nicholette DiGiacomo.

The second-year player from Royal Palm Beach, Fla. finished 2010 as the Panthers leader in goals scored (10), points (22) and conference game-winners (5). She was third overall in the conference in goals scored after starting in all 21 games last season.

Middle Tennessee, the 2010 SBC Tournament Champion, was picked third by the coaches, garnering two first place votes. The Blue Raiders captured the first Sun Belt Tournament title in program history last fall, advancing to the NCAA Tournament.

This season the Blue Raiders hope to accomplish the feat again, this time on its home field, as MTSU hosts the 2011 SBC Soccer Tournament, November 2-5.

North Texas and WKU followed Middle Tennessee at Nos. 4 and 5 respectively. Troy came in at No. 6 in the poll. Both North Texas and Troy each earned a first place vote.

Florida Atlantic was ranked seventh, while Louisiana-Lafayette, UALR and Arkansas State came in at Nos. 8, 9 and 10. South Alabama was picked 11th and Louisiana-Monroe was picked 12th to complete the coaches poll.

In addition to the soccer poll, the SBC also released the Preseason All-Conference team.

Nine student-athletes that earned first- or second-team honors in 2010 are set to return this season, including reigning SBC Player of the Year Kaitlin Bast. Bast's teammate, DiGiacomo joins Bast on the Preseason All-Conference team.

The Pioneers led the way with four selections on the preseason team followed by WKU with three.

2011 SBC Women’s Soccer Coaches’ Preseason Poll
1. Denver (7) - 139 pts
2. FIU (1) - 121 pts
3. Middle Tennessee (2) - 115 pts
4. North Texas (1) - 112 pts
5. WKU - 95 pts
6. Troy (1) - 78 pts
7. Florida Atlantic - 63 pts
8. Louisiana - 60 pts
9. UALR - 51 pts
10. Arkansas State - 46 pts
11. South Alabama - 36 pts
12. Louisiana-Monroe - 20 pts

2011 Preseason All-SBC Soccer Team
Kaitlin Bast (Denver, Junior, F)
Chelsea Levia (FIU, Sophomore, F)
Mallory Outerbridge (WKU, RS-Senior, F)
Katy Van Lieshout (Denver, Junior, D)
Kelsey Hodges (North Texas, Senior, D)
Kaylyn Pratt (WKU, Senior, D)
Bria Beardsley (Denver, Senior, MF)
Nicholette DiGiacomo (Denver, Sophomore, MF)
Ellen Scarfone (North Texas, Junior, MF)
Melanie Raimo (FIU, Senior, GK)
Libby Stout (WKU, Senior, GK)

2011 Preseason All-SBC Soccer Player of the Year
Chelsea Levia (FIU, Sophomore, F)


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