SIOUX FALLS – The Jackrabbit women’s soccer program was tabbed second in the 2019 Summit League Preseason Coache Poll, released Monday. South Dakota State garnered 57 points in the rankings with a pair of first-place votes while Maggie Smither and Leah Manuleleua were recognized as players to watch.
SDSU and top vote-getter Denver (63 points, five first-place votes) were widely separated from the next three spots, as North Dakota State (41), Omaha (39) and South Dakota (37) rounded out the top five. The final four spots were held by North Dakota (32), Oral Roberts (31), Purdue Fort Wayne (14) and Western Illinois (10).
The Jackrabbits went 12-6-1 (7-1 Summit League) a year ago en route to their second-consecutive Summit League regular season title. Eight Jackrabbits earned All-Summit League honors, with four of the recognized student-athletes returning in 2019.
Smither was rock-solid between the pipes a year ago, allowing just 14 goals while posting a 0.71 goals against average. The two-time Summit League Goalkeeper of the Year started all 19 regular season contests in 2018 and posted 10 complete shutouts, combining with fellow keeper Hailee Fischer for another one. From Sioux Falls, she enters her final campaign with 200 stops in her career. Smither was a USC All-West Region honoree last season and is a three-time all-league honoree, earning a first team nod the last two years after picking up freshman team honors in 2016.
Manuleleua, a two-time All-Summit League honoree, is back for her senior campaign after leading the team with 14 points in 2019. She missed four games due to a midseason injury, but managed to log 933 minutes for the Jackrabbit attack with a .455 shots-on-goal percentage. Manuleleua posted a hat trick in a Jackrabbit nonleague victory and fnished the year with five goals and four assists.
The Jackrabbits open the regular season with a two-game homestand, taking on Utah State Aug. 23 and Idaho State Aug. 25 at Fishback Soccer Park.