Women's soccer picked to win 16th consecutive Big Ten crown

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- The No. 4 Penn State women's soccer team has been picked to win its 16th consecutive Big Ten championship, as voted on by the league's 12 head coaches in the 2013 Big Ten Women's Soccer Preseason poll. Michigan came in at second and Illinois rounded out the top three.

Additionally, senior forward Maya Hayes (West Orange, N.J.), junior defender Whitney Church (Ashburn, Va.) and sophomore forward/midfielder Raquel Rodriguez (San Jose, Costa Rica) were selected as Big Ten Preseason Players to Watch.

The Lions turned in an outstanding 2012 season, compiling a 10-0-1 record in league play (21-4-2 overall) and advancing to their first-ever national championship game. They return 8-of-11 starters and the majority of their offensive core from 2012. Hayes, Rodriguez, Mallory Weber (Novi, Mich.), Tani Costa (Honolulu, Hawaii), Emily Hurd (Sammamish, Wash.) and Taylor Schram (Canonsburg, Pa.) posted 46 goals and 35 assists (127 points) for the PSU offense last season.

Hayes, a MAC Hermann Trophy semifinalist and two-time NSCAA first team All-American, has been named to the watch list for the second consecutive year. The senior has earned back-to-back Big Ten Forward of the Year honors and was second on the team in goals (16) and points (38) in 2012. She was recently ranked the No. 2 player in the Big Ten and No. 6 in the country by Top Drawer Soccer.

Church, a 2012 All-Big Ten first team selection and Big Ten Defender of the Year, is on the preseason watch list for the first time following a breakout sophomore season. She started all 27 games for the Nittany Lions and logged over 2,000 minutes on defense in 2012. The junior received a No. 3 ranking in the Big Ten and was tabbed 13th in the nation by Top Drawer Soccer.

Rodriguez earned a spot on the watch list after an exceptional freshman season in which she was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year. The sophomore posted four goals and 10 assists in her rookie campaign and was selected as the 11th-best player in the Big Ten by Top Drawer Soccer.

Penn State hosts Navy on Friday at 7:00 p.m. in an exhibition game. The Nittany Lions will open the 2013 regular season at home on Friday, August 23 at 7:30 p.m. against West Virginia as a part of the Penn State Invitational. PSU will also match up against Hofstra on Sunday, August 25 at 12 p.m. in the four-team tournament.

Big Ten Women's Soccer Preseason Coaches' Poll

1. Penn State
2. Michigan
3. Illinois
4. Ohio State
5. Wisconsin
6. Iowa
7. Minnesota
8. Northwestern
9. Nebraska
10. Michigan State
11. Purdue
12. Indiana

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Last Updated August 16, 2013