Messiah still preseason favorite, but Emory, others may be catching up
Entering the 2013 season, there seems to be little reason to expect much to change from last year’s results.
With another preseason No. 1 ranking, there are few, if any, indications that the Messiah dynasty will slow down anytime soon. The Falcons have won four of the past five national championships, and have a 120-2-4 record during that stretch.
Last season, Messiah defeated Emory 1-0 in the national championship match, avenging an early season loss to the Eagles that was Messiah's first defeat since the 2010 championship. The Falcons finished 2012 at 24-1-1 after outscoring opponents 17-1 in the postseason.
The six-time defending Commonwealth champion Falcons received all 10 first-place votes in the conferences’ preseason coaches' poll. While they will endure the losses of National Player of the Year Alex Brandt and All-Region players Elizabeth Phillips and Rachael Scheibeler, Messiah has plenty of returners to back up the high expectations.
All-American sophomore Alicia Frey (12 goals, four assists) returns, as does classmate Nikki Elsaesser (11 goals, 11 assists). The Falcons also welcome senior forward Corinne Wulf back to the field after she missed last season due to injury. Wulf scored 21 goals and tallied seven assists two years ago. On the defensive end, sophomore Audra Larson will be back after a posting a No. 1-ranked .277 goals-against average in her debut season.
Trying to knock the Falcons off the throne will be Emory, which came the closest last season after beating them in the regular season and falling 1-0 in the title game. The Eagles reached their first national semifinal last season after going 15-2-7, and they have posted a 40-2-11 record in the past three seasons.
Twenty players will be returning to this year’s Emory squad, including nine who started at least 12 games last year. The Eagles still have each of the top-four scorers from 2012 in Emily Feldman (eight goals, four assists), Veronica Romero (eight, four), Charlotte Butker (five, 10) and Kelly Costopoulos (eight, three).
Last year’s Division III Defender of the Year Lauren Gorodestsky also returns for the Eagles to anchor a defense that had 14 shutouts last season. The biggest question for the Eagles lies in who will replace the goalkeeper duo of Kaele Leonard and Erica Stein, who both graduated after combining for a 0.483 goals-against average.
Preseason No. 3 Wheaton (Ill.), which lost to Emory in last year’s national semifinal, will also be trying to dethrone Messiah. The Thunder finished last season at 21-4-2 and made it to its sixth semifinal since 2004. All-American Leah DeMoss will lead the way after she scored 21 goals and totaled 10 assists last season.
Washington (Mo.) and Carnegie Mellon round out the preseason top five. Check out the complete rankings here.