Senior Silvia Betancourt is expected to be a prominent part of Liberty's offensive attack in 2011, after netting eight goals a season ago.
Liberty has been picked to finish fifth in the 2011 Big South Conference preseason women's soccer poll, as voted upon by the league's head coaches. Head coach Jessica Hain's squad, which opens fall practice on Wednesday, tallied 75 points. Two-time defending Big South champion High Point claimed the top spot in the poll, garnering five first-place votes and 108 total points. Radford was a close second, with a pair of first-place votes and 102 points. The Panthers and Highlanders swept the preseason individual honors, as High Point forward Kelli Joline was voted Preseason Attacking Player of the Year and Radford goalkeeper Che' Brown was named Preseason Defensive Player of the Year. Liberty senior Aimee Luurtsema was just one point behind Joline in the voting for Preseason Attacking Player of the Year, after scoring a team-high 13 goals in 2010. Charleston Southern was listed third, thanks to two first-place votes and 90 points. Fellow Palmetto State squad Coastal Carolina was tabbed fourth, with a single first-place vote and 80 points. Big South newcomer Campbell and Winthrop shared the sixth spot with 72 points apiece, with the Eagles earning the final first-place vote. Gardner-Webb (eighth place, 59 points), VMI (ninth place, 25 points), UNC Asheville (10th place, 23 points) and Presbyterian College (11th place, 20 points) rounded out the poll. Last season, Liberty finished sixth in the Big South regular-season standings with a 4-5 conference record and an 8-10-3 overall mark. The Lady Flames reached the semifinals of the Big South Women's Soccer Championship, before they were eliminated by Gardner-Webb on penalty kicks. The Lady Flames return their top two goal scorers from the 2010 campaign, seniors Luurtsema and Silvia Betancourt (8 goals), as well as team assist leader Madison Short (8 assists). Luurtsema, Short and defender Ariana Espinoza were each second team All-Big South selections a year ago. Liberty will open the 2011 season on Aug. 26, when the Lady Flames travel up Route 29 to face Virginia. The team's home opener will be played under the lights on Aug. 29, when Longwood visits Osborne Stadium. One month later, Liberty will host Coastal Carolina for its first of 10 Big South Conference matches. The 2011 Big South Women's Soccer Championship will be contested at Blackbaud Stadium in Charleston, S.C., Nov. 3-6. The tournament champion will earn an automatic berth into the NCAA Division I Women's Soccer Championship, set to begin Nov. 11.
2011 Big South Conference Preseason Women's Soccer Poll Team (First-Place Votes) – Points 1) High Point (5) – 108 2) Radford (2) – 102 3) Charleston Southern (2) – 90 4) Coastal Carolina (1) – 80 5) Liberty – 75 6T) Campbell – 72 6T) Winthrop (1) – 72 8) Gardner-Webb – 59 9) VMI – 25 10) UNC Asheville – 23 11) Presbyterian College – 20
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