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Cougars picked 3rd in UMAC women's soccer

Winners of the last five Upper Midwest Athletic Conference regular season championships, the College of St. Scholastica was the prediction by the league's coaches to win the conference title once again in 2009. The Saints have posted perfect 14-0 UMAC records in their last three seasons, with the last two years producing a bid in the NCAA tournament. St. Scholastica earned 49 points in the pre-season coaches' poll, besting next-best Northwestern College by nine.

Saints head coach Dave Reyelts returns the vast majority of his key players, nine of which are seniors. Jen Krokum is one of those seniors who will lead her team, as the First Team All-UMAC player in 2008. Even though CSS has a great deal of senior leadership, several of the team's underclassmen will continue to contribute to Reyelts' squad.

Northwestern College edged the University of Minnesota, Morris for second place in the UMAC Pre-season Poll, scoring 40 points. Reigning UMAC Coach of the Year Josh Pettit lost just two players from his 2008 team that finished 12-2 in league play. Junior first team all-conference honoree Kyrie Jorgenson returns to the pitch at Northwestern. A pair of UMAC First Team All-Conference players in Lindsey Anderson and Bridget Piche return to command the Eagles' backfield.

The Cougars, who finished the 2008 UMAC season in fourth place, received 39 points in the coaches' pre-season prediction. Last year's squad battled injuries and illness all season long, but just five goals separated the Cougars from a second-place finish in the UMAC. Morris' leading scorer, Maddy Gerber, was absent six games due to injury last season, will come back to the pitch to lead her team in 2009. Head coach Dan Magner returns all but three players from a year ago, as the Cougars look to regain their championship form from 2003.

Finishing third in the 2008 conference standings was Northland College, who received 29 points in the pre-season poll for fourth place. Second-year head coach Ashley Grant will rely heavily on the performance of senior Sarah Strobino, who shared the conference player of the year honors with St. Scholastica's Robin Johnson in 2008. Strobino broke Northland's all-time scoring record as well as the most goals in a single season last year with 27. Three-time UMAC All-Conference selection Amanda Seely joins Strobino in the LumberJills' offensive attack.

Bethany Lutheran College, who placed sixth in the conference in 2008, was predicted to finish fifth in the UMAC. Despite a 3-8-3 conference record, the Vikings finished 3-1-3 in their final seven games. Bethany Lutheran head coach Derick Lyngholm has added 14 new players to his veteran core of eight starters, six of whom were in the team's top eight scorers last season. Joelle Pipal, the team's leading scorer and UMAC All-Conference honoree in 2008, is joined by veterans Andrea Moldstad and Katie Renner.

Crown College trailed Bethany Lutheran College by two points to take sixth in the coaches' poll with 22 points. With a league record of 5-8-1 in 2007, Crown missed out on the UMAC Conference Tournament by one game. Head coach Tim Prusha has a pair of all-conference players in Miranda Baltzer and Bethany Rossetti returning to the field, leading a group of nine players from a year ago and a list of newcomers to compete in 2009. In addition to other newcomers, Megan Nibbe, a transfer from Bethany Lutheran, will give it their best as the Storm aims to finish in the top half of the conference standings.

Bringing back eight starters from last year's 5-12-2 team, Martin Luther College earned 14 points in the pre-season survey, which was good for seventh place. Hannah Janke, who led the Knights with four goals as a freshman in 2008, will return along with fellow multi-goal scorers Heidi Heckmann and Kadie Drake to bolster the Martin Luther offense. 

Rounding out the UMAC's eight teams in the poll is Presentation College, who earned seven points after a 1-13 conference record a year ago. Saints head coach Steve Cogley has brought on a new style of soccer that is suitable for the program's growth, giving opponents fits at times. Second-year players Sydney Goerhing and Amanda Jenson will be the strength of Presentation's squad, while newcomers Liz Diebert and Steph Mastel will bring more experience to the team.

All eight UMAC teams will be in action beginning on Sept. 1, with the conference schedule commencing on Sept. 9. At the conclusion of the 2009 regular season, the league's top four teams will participate in the UMAC Conference Tournament on Nov. 3 and 7.