ST. PAUL - The Martin Luther College women's soccer team was picked to finish fourth in the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference Preseason Poll released Tuesday afternoon.
MLC is vying to build off last season's 12-8 campaign that saw the program return to the top half of the UMAC standings and the conference tournament for the first time with a 10-4 conference record.
The Knights return five starters from last season and must replace a group of veterans such as 2013 UMAC Co-Offensive Player of the Year Bethany Schultz. Leading the charge among the returners is 2013 UMAC Co-Rookie of the Year Jenna Maurer, who tied for the team lead with 16 goals as a freshman.
Maurer also finished second on the team last year with six assists, 83 shots and 55 shots on goal. She will be joined up front by returners Lauren Maertz and Alyssa Maertz. Lauren Maertz finished last season with six goals and 13 total points, while Alyssa Maertz was named Second Team All-UMAC as a midfielder after scoring two goals and finishing with five total points.
MLC must replace a number of key veterans on defense, with only 2013 Honorable Mention All-UMAC performer Rachel Naumann returning from last season's starting lineup. Naumann will be key in holding down opposing offenses in front of returning goalkeeper Keely Keese, who played in 19 games last season and finished with a goals against average of 2.77 and 93 saves.
St. Scholastica finished first in the poll with a total of 49 votes, including all seven possible first-place votes. Minnesota-Morris (43 points, one first-place vote) and Northwestern (32 points) finished second and third.