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Cougar women voted third in UMAC poll

Winners of the last six Upper Midwest Athletic Conference (UMAC) regular season championships, the College of St. Scholastica was the league's coaches prediction to win the conference title once again in 2010. The Saints have posted perfect undefeated UMAC records in their last four seasons, with the last three years producing a bid in the NCAA tournament.  Despite ongoing success, St. Scholastica head coach Dave Reyelts might have his toughest task yet as a total of 15 players are gone from last year's roster. The Saints' top three goal-scorers from 2009 were a part of the departing group. Reyelts has brought in the program's largest recruiting class to date this season to supplement the losses. Forward Hannah Roy highlights the Saints' returners. Kaylee Gombold also returns for St. Scholastica.

Northwestern will look to contend for a conference championship and a UMAC Tournament title after a 9-3-2 conference finish in 2009. The Eagles, who finished second in the conference standings in 2008, lost to the two teams ahead of them in St. Scholastica and Northland, by a combined three goals in four contests. Northwestern's offense in 2010 won't look much different than it did a year before, as top goal scorers Rebekah Kirby and Kyrie Jorgenson return for another campaign. The combo was Nos. 1 and 2 as the UMAC's top point-getters last season. The Eagles' defense will have somewhat of a different look with the departure of all-conference players Lindsey Anderson and Rhonda Morgan. Anderson's sister, Heidi, will be back for her second year in an Eagles uniform as will junior all-conference winner Bridget Piche.

Trailing just four points from the top vote-getter and three points behind Northwestern in the poll was the University of Minnesota, Morris. The Cougars finished fourth in the 2009 standings with a 9-5 UMAC record. With first- and second-year players filling over half of the UMM roster, the team's nine upperclassmen will be looked to for leadership this season. Leading the charge in 2010 will be Taylor Meehan, who finished second on the team with 20 points a year ago. Also coming back is fellow sophomore Katie Kestner, who scored 16 points and was one of just two players to start in all 20 games in 2009. Goalkeeper Emily Jacob returns between the pipes after logging five shutouts in her junior campaign. Jacobs played nearly 1,800 minutes in the net last year and stopped over 100 shots for the Cougars.

Coming off one of the team's best seasons in school history which included a 12-game winning streak, fourth place Northland College will look to improve on its 11-3 record and a second-place finish in the UMAC standings last season. With the loss of two prolific scorers in Sarah Stobino and Mariah Cook, new co-head coaches Anne Whiting and Olaf Kirsten will count on their young talent to find the LumberJills' scoring touch and veterans to solidify an already solid defense. All-conference players Mel Rasor, Rebecca Lake and Bryanna Johnson will return to captain the Northland midfield and defense in 2010.  Bethany Lutheran College narrowly missed Northland in the preseason poll. The Vikings will take to the soccer pitch this fall with great reason for optimism. Coming off last year's 5-9-1 conference season that was besieged by injuries to several key players, Bethany Lutheran returns eight starters and the team's top 10 scorers in 2010. Returning after a season-ending injury, Joelle Pipal looks to rebound with a big year offensively. Helping Pipal on offense will be UMAC First Team All-Conference forward Kristin Renner and all-conference honorable mention midfielder Anna Potz. Defensively, the Vikings return four of their back five defenders, but lose four-year starter and all-conference goalkeeper Katie Renner. Bethany Lutheran will be looking for junior Amy Anderson and a pair of freshman to step and fill the void in front of the net.

Crown College finished sixth in the poll. After losing their first six matches to open the 2009 season, the Storm rebounded to win seven of their final twelve, including going 6-5 in conference play. Crown returns six goal scorers from a year ago, but will need to find more offense following the departure of Missy Herrity and Bethany Rossetti due to graduation. Leading the team in 2010 will be seniors Marissa Brink and Stephanie Lally, and junior Miranda Baltzer. Crown has a new face at the helm of its program in 2010 as Art Busha took over the head coaching duties during the summer.

Seventh and eighth place went to Martin Luther College and Presentation College, respectively. Like Crown, both Martin Luther and Presentation will have new head coaches to start the season. The Knights of Martin Luther look to turn the corner under the direction of coach Jeff Schone, while Presentation returns to a familiar face in Bob Schuchardt to direct its program. Schuchardt started the Saints program in 2001 and continued to coach the team through the 2005 campaign before returning again in 2010.

Martin Luther returns seven starters from last season's team, including leading scorers Kadie Drake, Heidi Heckmann and Emily Marggraf.  Defenders Lindsay Hahn and Heidi Wilz, and goalkeeper Abigail Horn are also back for the Knights.   Martin Luther also hopes the return of Hannah Janke, who missed last season because of injury, will help add to the offense.

Presentation returns nine starters from a year ago. Key returners for the Saints in 2010 include Amanda Jensen, Sydney Goehring, Liz Deibert and Stephanie Mastel.

All eight UMAC teams will be in action beginning on Sept. 1, with the conference schedule commencing on Sept. 14. At the conclusion of the 2010 regular season, the league's top four squads will participate in the now-very important UMAC Conference Tournament on Nov. 2 and 6. For the first time in 2010, the UMAC Tournament champion will receive an automatic qualifier into the NCAA Tournament.