Smart Garners Preseason Honors, Utah State Soccer Tabbed Third In WAC Preseason Poll
Aug. 4, 2008
LOGAN, Utah - For the second year in a row, Utah State junior soccer player Lindsey Smart was named Co-Defensive Player of the Year and Utah State was picked third in the Western Athletic Conference preseason poll, selected by the conference's eight coaches and announced by the league office Monday.
The third-place preseason pick matches last year for the highest preseason selection in the program's history.
"It's great to get respect from the conference coaches, but the preseason polls are based on last year's results and that's just what they are, last year's results. We've got to go out and prove ourselves this year," said USU head coach Heather Cairns, who is entering her sixth year at the helm of the Aggies with a 43-46-9 record.
The Aggies return seven starters and 15 letterwinners from last season's squad that posted a 10-11-0 record, tying the most-ever wins in the program's 12-year history. Utah State's 5-2-0 conference record ties the previous program-record mark of five league wins set in 2006. USU finished fourth in last season's conference standings, making it to the WAC Tournament semifinals before losing 1-0 in overtime to eventual conference champion Hawai'i, marking the third season in a row the Aggies have lost to the eventual tournament title winner.
"We finished fourth last year and made it to the conference tournament semifinals, so that a great start for us to build on, but our goal has been to win a WAC Tournament championship and we haven't done that yet. So this just serves as great motivation for the team in that we've got to prove this ranking and earn a spot in the upper echelon of the league standings," Cairns said.
Utah State was picked sixth in the 2005 preseason poll, the Aggies' first year in the WAC, fourth in 2006 and third in last season's preseason prognostication.
"This continued improvement in the preseason polls has shown that we're making a name for ourselves in the conference but the name we really want for ourselves is `WAC Tournament Champion,'" Cairns said.
Smart, a native of Sandy, Utah (Brighton HS) was also named the preseason co-defensive player of the year last season and also repeats as a preseason all-WAC team selection this year. Last season Smart earned first-team all-WAC honors after logging five points off five assists and anchoring the Aggies' defense that teamed with goalkeeper Ali Griffin to log eight shutouts, ranking second in the WAC. In 2006, Smart was named the WAC Freshman of the Year, becoming the first Utah State player to earn a specific individual accolade.
"Lindsey is a very important player to our team," Cairns said. "She was voted team captain by her teammates and this preseason honors just shows that her ability and attributes are recognized outside the team as much as they are inside the team."
Smart shares the preseason defensive player of the year honor with Hawai'i senior Tehane Higa.
"To make the preseason all-WAC team is a great honor but to be honored even more with co-defensive player of the year just shows that other teams realize how vital of a role she plays within our defensive system," Cairns said.
Utah State garnered 37 points, finishing behind preseason favorite and defending conference champion Hawai'i with 49 points, including seven first-place votes. Fresno State was second with 40 points and the remaining first-place vote, as coaches can not vote for their own team.
"Fresno State is a great traditional battle with us, but we haven't gotten a favorable result against them of late, tying them twice and losing to them," Cairns said. "I think being that close to them gives us added motivation for facing them in league play."
USU was followed by Boise State in fourth with 30 points, Nevada in fifth with 28 points, followed by San Jose State (18 points), Idaho (14 points) and Louisiana Tech (eight points).
The Aggies open fall practice on Wednesday in preparation for the Blue-White scrimmage on Saturday, Aug. 16 at 1 p.m. at Chuck and Gloria Bell Soccer Field. USU opens the 2008 season on Friday, Aug. 22 against Idaho State at Pocatello, Idaho at 4 p.m. before the Aggies' home-opener on Sunday, Aug. 24 against Seattle at 1 p.m.
Admission to all USU home soccer matches is free.
2008 WAC Soccer Preaseon Coaches' Poll
2008 Preseason All-WAC Team
Preseason Players of the Year