A poll of the league’s 12 head coaches has named the UCF women’s soccer team to be the preseason favorite to win the 2011 Conference USA Championship. The poll also named a league-high four members of the Knights to the preseason all-conference team, including junior Tishia Jewell (Satellite Beach, Fla.) as the 2011 C-USA Preseason Offensive Player of the Year.
The Knights are the defending C-USA regular season champions after posting a mark of 8-1-2 in league play and 15-5-3 overall. UCF’s play earned them a spot in the league title game in Orlando in early November before advancing to the second round of the NCAA Tournament later in the month.
“Preseason rankings are nice and we certainly are honored that the coaches think highly of the program, but at the end of the day we are more concerned with how we finish,” head coach Amanda Cromwell said. “I am very pleased with how things are going. The training sessions are intense and competitive. The energy is fantastic and the chemistry is coming together. We’ve worked on some defensive shape, small-sided and played some at nights. Each session gets better and our expectations for this season are very high. This could very well be the best defensive group we’ve had here at UCF.”
Jewell was voted the Preseason Offensive Player of the Year for the second straight season, while Marissa Diggs (Rowlett, Texas) and seniors Katie Jackson (Satellite Beach, Fla.) and Aline Reis (Campinas, Brazil) joined Jewell on the preseason all-conference team.
Jewell was ranked 23rd in the nation last season with 32 points on 10 goals and 12 assists, helping her to a spot on the NSCAA All-Central Region First Team. Her play during the course of the season also earned her the C-USA Offensive Player of the Year award in early November.
In her first season in a UCF uniform, Diggs was voted to the C-USA All-Freshman Team last season after helping the Knights post an 0.92 goals-against average. A defender, she also contributed offensively, scoring the game-winning goal at home against Marshall in the 66th minute of play.
Jackson was also named to the NSCAA All-Central Region Second Team and ranked third on the team with 19 points on six goals and seven assists and starting all 23 games.
Reis joined Jewell with honors from the NSCAA as she was selected to the All-Central Region Second Team after starting 20 games and recording five shutouts. As a junior, she also earned NSCAA College Scholar All-America Second Team honors last season for her work in the classroom.
The Knights began play this Saturday, Aug. 13 at 7 p.m. with pregame ceremonies scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. celebrating the opening of the newly expanded UCF Soccer Stadium.