There may be few conferences where it’s as difficult to make the post-season as it is in the Summit League women’s soccer conference.
For a conference of nine teams, all of which can beat any other team on their day, only four teams get a chance to play in the conference tournament. To find out how difficult it is to make it to that tournament, you just have to ask the Omaha women’s soccer team.
Last season required a monumental effort from the Mavericks on the final day of the regular season in order to make the conference tournament for the first time in Division I history. In the end, Omaha would go on to upset the No. 1 seed South Dakota State Jackrabbits 3-1 in the first round in what would be one of the stories of the season.
Now, with the 2019 Summit League women’s soccer season kicking off soon, new stories are set to be written.
The favorite to win it all this year is the Denver Pioneers, who are the two-time defending champions. While the Pioneers may not be in the best form at the moment, (they’ve lost four of their last five games this season), Denver has been playing a non-conference schedule that is amongst the toughest in the Summit League. Currently, the Pioneers sit at 3-4-2, with wins coming against the likes of Texas and Drake.
Off to a slightly better start this season is the South Dakota Jackrabbits. The co-defending regular season champions, (alongside Denver), are off to a start of 7-3 and are in good form at the moment – winning their last five games in a row. As the only other team to have received first place votes in the preseason poll, South Dakota State could be one of the teams that is capable of knocking Denver from their perch this season.
Someone else who might have a say in that conversation is Elyse Huber and the North Dakota State Bison. Huber may be among the best players in the Summit League this season, as she was named the United Soccer Coaches National Player of the Week on Aug. 22. This honor was given to Huber as a result of the forward’s four goal performance against Eastern Washington. With one of the league’s most dangerous offensive threats at their disposal, the Bison will be hoping that they can find themselves at the top of the Summit for the first time since 2010.
The Omaha Mavericks will be looking to build on last season’s tournament runner-up performance as they gear up for this season. Playing in their first-ever postseason, the Mavericks defied expectations in making it all the way to the finals. This year, Omaha’s squad seems to have only gotten better. The goal for the program will be again to make it back to the post-season this year, hoping that they can go a little bit further and win it all.
Outside of the top four teams in the preseason poll, there are plenty of other teams that could make for an interesting and challenging Summit League season. The North Dakota Fighting Hawks will be eager to return to the post-season, as they missed out by the narrowest of margins last season. The South Dakota Coyotes, who are one of the hottest teams in the Summit right now, winning their last four games, will look to carry their momentum into conference play. And Western Illinois, the bottom feeders in the Summit League last season, will look to prove that they aren’t pushovers this season. Halfway through this season, the Leathernecks already have as many wins as they did all of last year.
With all these storylines, and more to keep an eye on, conference play will kick off on Oct. 3. when Omaha opens their season on the road against Western Illinois. The Mavericks’ conference home opener will come on Oct. 11 against North Dakota State, and the game can be streamed live at OMavs.com or listened to on Mavradio.fm.