SPRING ARBOR, Mich. – The Spring Arbor University women's soccer team opens the season ranked No. 2 in the NAIA Women's Soccer Coaches' Preseason Top 25 Poll, the national office released on Tuesday.
The Cougars, who finished as the national runner-up a season ago, received 452 total points by the national raters. The ranking marks the seventh consecutive year SAU has appeared in the preseason poll, and is the 30th straight poll overall the team has landed inside the top 10.
The University of Northwestern Ohio remained No. 1 in the rankings following their win over the Cougars in the national championship final. The Racers received all 17 first place votes and garnered 467 total points. Spring Arbor will play UNOH in a rematch of last year's title game on Wednesday, Sept. 6 at the Cougar Soccer Complex.
Rounding out the top five in the rankings were Vanguard University (Calif.), Benedictine College (Kan.) and Lindsey Wilson College (Ky.).
Despite coming up just short of claiming back-to-back national titles, Spring Arbor enjoyed a historic season in 2016. Head coach Jason Crist and the Cougars put together a 32-match winning streak, which ranks as the second-longest streak ever in the NAIA, as well as a 42-match unbeaten streak, tying for the second-longest mark all-time. The team also posted a program record 19 shutouts, including four in the national tournament.
Spring Arbor also won its seventh straight Crossroads League title a year ago. The Cougars not only led the league in nearly every statistical category, but ranked among the best in the nation. SAU scored a program record 91 goals, which ranked fourth in the country, but also only conceded five goals in 24 matches – the fewest in the NAIA and tied for the second-fewest in NAIA history.
The Cougars will begin the season with a road match against Trinity International University on Tuesday, Aug. 22 at 5 p.m. EST before hosting Cincinnati Christian University in the team's home opener on Saturday, Aug. 26 at 5 p.m.