[CONFERENCE USA PREVIEW] As five-time defending conference champion, it is no surprise that Memphis is the preseason favorite in Conference USA, but it should again get a challenge from UCF, which advanced all the way to the quarterfinals of the 2011 NCAA Tournament.
Memphis will return six starters, led by the reigning C-USA Offensive Player of the Year in Canadian Christabel Oduro, who led the league with 39 points, 17 in conference play, and 16 goals that included six game-winners.
UCF's run the quarterfinals was its first appearance in the final eight since 1987. The Knights, who return nine starters and four of its top five scorers from last year, are ranked second in the C-USA coaches' poll.
While Oduro is the Preseason Offensive Player of the Year, UCF's Marissa Diggs is the Preseason Defensive Player of the Year
Oduro will be one of three Tigers who will miss the start of the 2012 season to play in the Under-20 Women's World Cup. Oduro and Kylie Davis will play for Canada, while Natalia Gomez-Junco will compete for Mexico.
Three other C-USA players will be in Japan:German Sophie Howard (UCF), Mexican Nayeli Rangel (UCF) and Argentine Gabriela Iribarne (Rice).
Two schools changed head coaches in the offseason. Chris Petrucelli took over at SMU for Brent Erwin, now a men's assistant coach with the Mustangs, after he lost the job he held at Texas since 1999.
Meanwhile, Akron coach Chris Pfau replaced former U.S. internationalSusan Quillat Houston. Quill, née Bush, resigned in May after five seasons as head coach.
CONFERENCE USA IN BRIEF:
2011 REGULAR SEASON. 1. Memphis (10-0-1), 2. Colorado College (8-2-1), 3.
UCF (6-2-3), 3. SMU (7-3-1).
2011 TOURNAMENT. Memphis beat UTEP, 2-1.
2011 NCAA TOURNAMENT. UCF lost in quarterfinals, Memphis lost in second round.
2012 CONTENDERS.UCF, Colorado College.
2012 CREAM OF THE CROP.F Christabel Oduro, Memphis, jr.; D Marissa Diggs, UCF, jr.; F Tishia Jewell, UCF, sr.; M Jessie Ayers, Colorado College, soph.
2012 TOP NEWCOMERS.D Sophie Howard, UCF; M Lissi Lonsberry, SMU; G Kara Dugall, Rice; F Tine Schryvers, Memphis.
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