[PREVIEW: Big 12 Women] With nine starters returning from last year’s squad, including young Canadian star Kadeisha Buchanan, West Virginia, the two-time defending Big 12 regular-season champion, is again the team to beat. It was the unanimous pick to win the conference again in a vote of the head coaches and the top ranked team, at No. 16, in the Soccer America preseason rankings.
Besides Buchanan, a starter on both Canada's senior and U-20 national team, fellow sophomore Ashley Lawrence and senior Kate Schwindel, the team’s top returning point earner with a career-best 28 points (11 goals, 6 assists) in 2013, return for the Mountaineers.
Texas Tech, No. 22 in the Soccer America Preseason Top 20, was chosen to place second. Tom Stone's Red Raiders have earned a NCAA bid each of the past two years and combined for just two Big 12 losses over the previous two seasons. They'll again be led by senior Jaelene Hinkle and junior Janine Beckie.
Led by Nigerian U-20 star Courtney Dike, Oklahoma State was selected third and received the other first-place nod. Nine other OSU starters are back from 2013 when the Cowgirls made their eighth NCAA Tournament appearance. Dike, the top returning scorer in the Big 12 with 13 goals and 30 points as a freshman, was joined by teammates Allie Stephenson and Natalie Calhoun, on the preseason All-Big 12 team.
Baylor and Texas were picked fourth and fifth, respectively. The Bears have earned NCAA bids in two of the last three campaigns, while the Longhorns posted their best Big 12 finish (third) since 2007 last season. Rounding out the Big 12 poll was Kansas at No. 6, followed by TCU, Iowa State and Oklahoma.
Buchanan and Hinkle were joined on the Soccer America Preseason All-American Team by Texas goalie Abby Smith.