Dayton, Tenn. – When Paul Babba took over the helm of the Bryan College Women's Soccer Program last year and received the next to last spot on the 2016 Appalachian Athletic Conference Women's Soccer Preseason Poll, he had no hesitation in proving that the Lions were worthy of climbing the list, and a statement was made as Bryan battled their way past Montreat College (N.C.), Union College (Ky.), and No. 2 seed Point University (Ga.) in the AAC Tournament to claim the runner-up title in the championship game against Tennessee Wesleyan University.
The Lions went from being projected to finish 10th in 2016 to earning the No. 5 position on this year's list, according to the coaches' preseason poll released Monday, despite having another school tossed into the mix for their inaugural year as a member of the AAC, Brenau University (Ga.).
Babba and the Lions worked their way to an impressive 10-10-2 overall record and conference mark of 5-5 in 2016, which is the winningest season in recorded history.
Reinhardt University (Ga.) is the odds on favorite to take the 2017 AAC Women's Soccer Championship. Reinhardt captured nine of the 12 possible first-place votes in amassing 141 total voting points. Reinhardt won the 2016 regular-season crown with a 9-1 record. The Lady Eagles advanced to the NAIA National Championship Tournament, making it to the quarterfinal round with wins over MidAmerica Nazarene University (Kan.) and then-No. 3 Keiser University (Fla.). Reinhardt finished the year ranked No. 11 in the NAIA with a 17-3-1 record.
Tennessee Wesleyan picked up the remaining three first-place votes in compiling 130 points for second. The Lady Bulldogs finished fourth in the regular season in 2016 with a 6-3-1 mark but won the AAC Tournament. Tennessee Wesleyan also advanced to the NAIA Opening Round in ending the year with a 13-6-2 mark.
Point is third in the preseason poll with 107 points, while Brenau and Bryan picked fourth and fifth, respectively. Making up the second five are Columbia College (S.C.) in sixth, Union in seventh, Truett McConnell University (Ga.) in eighth, St. Andrews University (N.C.) ninth, and Milligan College (Tenn.) 10th. Montreat and Bluefield College (Va.) round out the poll in 11th and 12th, respectively.
The AAC Tournament is set to begin with the opening round on Oct. 31 with the quarterfinal round scheduled for Nov. 3. The semifinal and championship rounds are slated for Nov. 7 and Nov. 10, respectively. All matches will be played at the highest remaining seed's home site.
2017 AAC Women's Soccer Preseason Poll
School (1st Place Votes)
1. Reinhardt (9)
2. Tennessee Wesleyan (3)
8. Truett McConnell
9. St. Andrews
To view the full 2017 women's soccer schedule, click here.