In each of the past two seasons, the Hutchinson Community College women’s soccer team ended the season ranked No. 3 in the final NJCAA Division I national polls.
In each of those two seasons, the Lady Dragons started unranked in the preseason poll, but quickly moved up the rankings in a two year span that saw Hutchinson go 38-4 with one outright and one shared Jayhawk Conference title and two Region VI championships.
When practice for the 2012 season starts on Friday at the USD 308 Athletic Complex, the Lady Dragons will open that practice as a ranked team, according to the NJCAA Preseason Division I women’s soccer poll, released on Wednesday.
Hutchinson earned its first preseason national ranking in team history, opening the 2012 season ranked No. 9.
The Lady Dragons two top Jayhawk Conference rivals also start the season ranked in the NJCAA Top 20. Butler, which shared the league crown with HCC and won the District B Tournament last season to qualify for the national tournament, opens the season ranked No. 5. Johnson County starts at No. 19.
Hutchinson will play host to Johnson County on Sept. 15 and will travel to El Dorado for the showdown with the Grizzlies on Oct. 14.
One other Hutchinson opponent opens the season in the poll. Northern Oklahoma-Tonkawa starts at No. 13 after a 13-6-1 season last year. HCC plays host to NOC-Tonkawa in October.
Defending national champion Tyler Junior College, which has lost only one game in the last two seasons, going 23-0 last year, opens as the No. 1 team in the nation. Darton College (18-2) is No. 2, followed by Scottsdale Community College (21-1-1) at No. 3 and Harford Community College (16-3) at No. 4.
While the 2012 Lady Dragons – guided by Sammy Lane, who starts his eighth season at HCC – lost a ton of scoring punch and three two-year starters on the back line, the cupboard his hardly bare as this season approaches.
Back is first-team NJCAA All-American Melissa Hetherington (35 goals, 14 assists, 84 points), who was among the national leaders in goals scored and points as a freshman. Shelby Otte and Sydney Armstrong, Andrea Thompson and Nicole Cronin combined for 22 goals and 88 points last season.
Jamie Smith returns to anchor the defense and goalkeepers Eunice Figueroa (13-1, 5 shutouts) and Emily Soza (4-1, 3 shutouts) are both returning.
The Lady Dragons will play three preseason scrimmages on the road this season and will open the 2012 season at home on Aug. 28 against Neosho County.
(HCC Sports Information)
NJCAA PRESEASON DIVISION I WOMEN’S SOCCER POLL
1. Tyler Junior College 23-0
2. Darton College 18-2
3. Scottsdale CC 21-1-1
4. Harford CC 16-3
5. Butler CC 21-4-1
6. Monroe CC 17-6-2
7. Laramie County CC 15-5-2
8. Brevard CC 9-4-1
9. Hutchinson CC 17-3
10. Community College of Rhode Island 14-3
11. Chandler-Gilbert CC 14-7
12. Northern Oklahoma-Tonkawa 13-6-1
13. Waubonsee CC 17-8
14. Lewis & Clark CC 18-4-1
15. Iowa Western CC 14-1
16. Paradise Valley CC 15-2-1
17. Georgia Perimeter College 13-1-2
18. North Idaho College 14-2-1
19. Johnson County CC 14-5-2
20. Spartanburg Methodist College 13-4-1