August 6, 2019
Oklahoma City, Okla. – The John Brown University women’s soccer team was picked to finish as runner up in the Sooner Athletic Conference, per the release of the 2019 SAC Women’s Soccer Coaches Preseason Poll by the league office on Tuesday (Aug. 6) afternoon.
|1.||Science & Arts (Okla.) (6)||77|
|2.||John Brown (Ark.) (4)||76|
|5.||Wayland Baptist (Texas)||43|
|6.||Mid-America Christian (Okla.)||37|
|7.||Central Christian (Kan.)||36|
|8.||Southwestern Christian (Okla.)||27|
|9.||Southwestern A.G. (Texas)||20|
|10.||Okla. Panhandle State||13|
In now consecutive seasons, the Golden Eagles finished just one point behind regular-season favorites and defending Sooner Athletic tournament champions, Science & Arts (Okla.). The Drovers finished with 77 points and six first-place votes while John Brown, who fell for the third time in four seasons to USAO in the tournament title match last fall, landed 76 points and four first-place votes. This season, JBU will look to piece together an unprecedented seventh-straight SAC tournament championship match appearance and third regular season title. Since 2013, the Golden Eagles have posted an incredible 44-6-5 (.845) mark in conference play under head coach Kathleen Paulsen.
John Brown completed the 2018 campaign with a 16-5-1 record after a disappointing 5-2-1 mark in SAC play. However, with three top-25 victories, including a win over No. 2 and eventual National Champion, William Carey (Miss.), JBU was poised to earn an at-large berth. The Golden Eagles did just that, and for the first time in program history, was selected to host an Opening Round match. In another program first, John Brown dispatched Kansas Wesleyan, 1-0, and finally earned its first-ever victory in the NAIA National Championships. Southeastern (Fla.) ran past the Blue and Gold in the Round of 16 as the Fire made its run to the national championship match. This season, John Brown will look to secure its first regular season championship since 2017 and its first tournament crown since 2016.
Oklahoma City picked up 61 points in the third spot, and Texas Wesleyan, the reigning regular season co-champs, polled 60 points to find fourth. Wayland Baptist (Texas) reeled in 43 points for the fifth slot, while Mid-America Christian (Okla.) came in at sixth with 37 points.
Central Christian (Kan.) was selected seventh, followed by Southwestern Christian (Okla.), Southwestern A.G. (Texas) and conference newcomers, Oklahoma Panhandle State, respectively.
Paulsen returns 15 letterwinners from last year’s squad, but signed eight newcomers – seven freshmen and a transfer – and welcomes back one medical redshirt.
John Brown’s biggest task will be to replace seniors Jastin Redman and Aspen Carpenter. The duo, which finished their careers first and second, respectively, on the program’s all-time scoring list, paced the team with 26 and 23 points apiece. Carpenter landed on the SAC first team while Redman finished on the second team. The Golden Eagles will also lose the midfield prowess of Melody Hagen (All-Conference second team) and Katherine Haar, and Annika Pollard on the back line.
Despite the losses, JBU returns junior Sienna Nealon, who seemed to score all of the Golden Eagles’ big-time goals, including the game-winners over William Carey and Kansas Wesleyan, the latter in the NAIA National Championships Opening Round. Nealon finished the season with four game-winners, tied with Redman for the team lead. Senior Kristen Howell, the only other returner with double-digit points, finished 2018 with 19 points (7 goals, 9 assists), including a two-goal burst at Texas Wesleyan in the SAC tournament semifinals, vaulting JBU to a come-from-behind victory.
Defensively, the Golden Eagles were bolstered by NAIA All-America third team selection Caitlyn Logan to a team .710 goals-against average, finishing in the top-20 in the nation. Playing all but 45 minutes of the season, Logan backstopped John Brown to 12 shutouts, second-most all-time in a single season in program history. Stopping over 80 percent of the shots fired on frame, Logan became just the second player in program history to achieve All-America status. Newcomers Chloe Griffin and Cailynn Campbell join Logan between the sticks in 2019. On the back line, Paulsen will enjoy the returns of Sarah Hughes and Paige Kula, who both earned All-Conference honors last year – first and second team, respectively.
John Brown kicks off the 2019 campaign with four consecutive home matches, including a pair of matchups with National Championships qualifiers Columbia (Mo.) and Louisiana State – Shreveport. Then, the Blue and Gold will travel to Kentucky to face off against another pair of qualifiers from a year ago in Martin Methodist (Tenn.) and Lindsey Wilson (Ky.). JBU finishes the non-conference slate with a home match with yet another qualifier in Georgia Gwinnett before tackling the Sooner Athletic gauntlet, which includes road matches at Science & Arts (Okla.) and Oklahoma City this season.