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Florida and Texas A&M are class by themselves
August 22nd, 2014 2:31AM

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[PREVIEW: SEC Women] After the Pac-10 with No. 1 UCLA and Stanford and the ACC with five teams in the top 10 rankings, the other conference to watch is the SEC, where Florida and Texas A&M checked in at No. 6 and No. 8 in the Soccer America preseason rankings.

Florida narrowly edged Texas A&M as the favorite to claim the 2014 conference title after they shared the 2013 regular-season title by posting identical 9-2-0 league records.

The Gators return all 11 starters from last season, including 2013 Soccer America Freshman of the Year Savannah Jordan and defender Christen Westphal, another Soccer America Preseason All-American. A big plus will be the return of midfielder Havana Solaun, who was injured late in the 2013 season and missed the NCAA Tournament.

Texas A&M returns 10 starters, five of whom were 2013 All-SEC selections, including first-teamers Shea Groom (another Soccer America Preseason All-American) and Meghan Streight and second-teamers Jordan Day, Leigh Edwards and Kelley Monogue.

Six SEC teams -- Florida, Texas A&M, Kentucky, South Carolina, Arkansas and Ole Miss -- earned NCAA Tournament bids in 2013 and all six won their first-round games. South Carolina, which is No. 25 in the Soccer America preseason rankings, is third and Kentucky in fourth in the 2014 SEC preseason coaches' poll. Arkansas, which advanced to the round of 16 in its first NCAA Tournament appearance, is No. 8, while Ole Miss is tied for No. 9 with Missouri.

The odd team out was Georgia, whose No. 43 in the RPI rankings was tied with the 2007 Arizona State team for the highest of any school to ever be left out of the NCAA Tournament. This year, the  Bulldogs are projected to finish at No. 7, behind Tennessee and LSU, which led all NCAA programs with four players at the 2014 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup (Emma Fletcher and Jordane Carvery, represented Canada, while Megan Lee and Lily Alfeld played for New Zealand).

Auburn, Alabama, Vanderbilt and Mississippi State rounded out the field.


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