Opening Game: Aug. 16 vs. Utah State, 6:30 p.m. Opening Game: Aug. 17 at Jackson State, 3 p.m. Conference play begins on Sept. 14 with all 12 league teams in action. Defending Southland regular season and tournament champions Lamar University is set to host the 2018 Southland Conference Soccer Tournament at LU Soccer Complex in Beaumont, Texas, from Oct. 31 to Nov. 4. Abilene Christian Wildcats – Preseason Rank: 3rd – 2017 Record/Place: 9-11, (6-5 SLC), 6thAfter making an impressive run in the 2017 conference tournament in their first season of postseason eligibility, the Wildcats enter the 2018 season at the No. 3 preseason poll spot. Finishing sixth in the regular season, ACU defeated third seed McNeese 5-3 in penalties before falling to the two-seed Ladyjacks 4-2 in the same fashion in the semifinals. Abilene Christian held both opponents scoreless. The team enters with four preseason all-conference picks – tied for a league-best. ACU opens the season at Baylor and also heads to Lubbock to face Texas Tech on Aug. 26. Opening Game: Aug. 17 vs. UTSA, 7 p.m. UIW Cardinals – Preseason Rank: 12th – 2017 Record/Place: 2-13-1 (1-9-1 SLC), 12thThe Cardinals enter a new chapter in 2018 under the new leadership of Emma Wright-Cates. She takes the reigns of an experienced squad featuring 21 returners from last season and just four players lost. Wright-Cates is joined by a brand new staff as she looks to lead UIW to its first Southland tournament appearance since joining the league. The Cardinals open with two road games at North Texas and Louisiana Tech before hosting Houston and UTSA ahead of their conference opener. Opening Game: Aug. 17 vs. Houston, 7 p.m. Opening Game: Aug. 17 vs. Little Rock, 7 p.m. Sam Houston State kicks off first at home against Utah State at 6:30 p.m. CT, while Abilene Christian travels to Baylor for a 7 p.m. kickoff. Nine games each are scheduled for Friday and Sunday to complete the 20-game slate for week one. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Islanders – Preseason Rank: 8th – 2017 Record/Place: 6-9-3 (3-6-2 SLC), T8thThe Islanders will field a very young team in 2018 under second-year head coach Craig Shaw. The team lost five starters from the 2017 Southland tournament team but return six along with a field of 15 newcomers. The roster includes 13 freshmen. The Islanders head west for their season opener at Colorado College on Aug. 24 before returning home for matchups with Rice, Texas State, UTRGV and Prairie View. Sam Houston State Bearkats – Preseason Rank: 7th – 2017 Record/Place: 7-9-2 (4-5-2 SLC), 7thAt the No. 7 preseason spot are the Bearkats, led by the longest serving active coach in the Southland Conference, Tom Brown. He enters his 11th season at the helm with Sam Houston State, bringing with him a strong core of returners from his 2017 conference tournament team. The team returns 13 letterwinners from last season while only losing six with the roster further bolstered by the addition of 10 newcomers. The Bearkats open at home against Utah State while their nonconference road slate features matchups with UL Lafayette, Oral Roberts, Tulsa and Houston. This year is the 22nd edition of Southland women’s soccer, a conference sport since 1997. Central Arkansas Bears – Preseason Rank: 4th – 2017 Record/Place: 11-10 (7-4 SLC), 4thThe Bears aim for their second Southland championship in three years after earning their first regular-season crown in 2016. UCA finished fourth last season and advanced to the conference tournament semifinal, falling 2-1 to eventual champion and top seed Lamar. Central Arkansas opens the season at home against in-state rival Little Rock before a four-game road swing at Memphis, ULM, Missouri State and Mississippi State. A pair of Bears earned preseason all-conference accolades in senior defender Kristen Ricks and senior forward Camille Bassett. Northwestern State Lady Demons – Preseason Rank: 10th – 2017 Record/Place: 6-12 (2-9 SLC), 11thThe Lady Demons enter the season under new leadership with co-head coaches Jess and Anna Jobe at the helm. The team will also have a new look with seven starters lost from 2017 and only four returning. In total, 14 letterwinners are lost from last season. Northwestern State brings in 13 newcomers to complement a strong returning duo of Brittany Caserma and April Trowbridge. Caserma, a senior forward, was an all-conference pick last season and earned a spot on the 2018 preseason all-conference team. After opening at home against UTSA, NSU hits the road to face Louisiana Tech, UL Lafayette and Mississippi Valley State. Lamar University Cardinals – Preseason Rank: 1st – 2017 Record/Place: 18-4-1 (10-1 SLC), 1stLamar enters as the preseason favorite, having won the regular-season and tournament titles in 2017. The Cardinals became the first Southland soccer program in history to go from finishing in last place to first place in consecutive seasons. LU faced No. 6 seed Texas A&M in the 2017 NCAA Tournament, falling by a score of 1-0. The team returns 12 letterwinners from last season, including six starters. The Lamar schedule features back-to-back home games to open the season and a pair of Power Five matchups against Oklahoma State and LSU. Stephen F. Austin Ladyjacks – Preseason Rank: 2nd – 2017 Record/Place: 13-8 (8-3 SLC), T2ndThe Ladyjacks head into 2018 at the preseason No. 2 spot. SFA finished tied for second in the 2017 regular season and was runner-up at the conference tournament. Under sixth-year head coach Wally Crittenden, the ‘Jacks will look to returning experience this season with 14 letterwinners back on the pitch from last year’s team. Stephen F. Austin holds 10 all-time regular-season titles, the last coming in 2015, and won its last tournament title in 2012. SFA’s nonconference slate features a home matchup against Mississippi State and road games at TCU and Texas. Opening Game: Aug. 16 at Baylor, 7 p.m. Houston Baptist Huskies – Preseason Rank: 6th – 2017 Record/Place: 7-7-3 (6-3-2 SLC), 5thThe Huskies eye a return to the Southland tournament championship after winning the title in 2016. Head coach Misty Jones enters her 13th season at the helm of HBU, holding a 30-19-7 league record in the team’s tenure in the conference. The team has a healthy contingency of experienced players, losing only three starters and returning eight – part of 15 total returning letterwinners. The Huskies tied for the league-high with four preseason all-conference picks. Returning all-conference selections from last season Baylii Bieke and Autumn Wildung are joined by goalkeeper Alanis Guevara and defender Megan Rickert. HBU opens the season at home versus Houston before a four-game road swing at Grand Canyon, Arizona, Prairie View and SMU. 2018 Southland Soccer Week One Notes (PDF)FRISCO, Texas – The 2018 Southland Conference soccer season gets underway Thursday with a pair of evening matchups, the first of 20 opening weekend games on the schedule. Opening Game: Aug. 17 at Prairie View, 7 p.m. McNeese Cowgirls – Preseason Rank: 5th – 2017 Record/Place: 12-6-1 (8-3 SLC), T2ndThe preseason No. 5 Cowgirls are coming off a second-place finish in 2017. McNeese lost last season’s Southland Player of the Year in forward Savannah LaRicci but return the reigning Goalkeeper of the Year Emma Roccaforte. Along with Roccaforte, senior midfielder Nola Prickett collected a preseason all-conference spot. In total, the Cowgirls return six letterwinners and lost five from last season. A strong nonconference slate awaits McNeese, highlighted by a pair of Power Five matchups. The Cowgirls open on the road at Prairie View and at TCU before a four-game homestand against Texas State, Arkansas, ULM and UL Lafayette. Southeastern Louisiana Lady Lions – Preseason Rank: 9th – 2017 Record/Place: 5-10-3 (3-6-2 SLC), T8thAfter narrowly missing out on a Southland tournament berth last season, the Lady Lions head into 2018 with second-year head coach Christopher McBride. The team holds the second-most regular season titles in conference history (5) and is tied for the most league tournament titles (4) among active members. SLU aims to continue rebuilding, having last won the Southland tournament in 2015. Southeastern will also field a young team in 2018, with just four seniors and 19 underclassmen on the roster. The Lady Lions open at Jackson State before hosting Alcorn State in the opening weekend. The team then goes on the road to North Texas, Southern and UL Lafayette. Opening Game: Aug. 24 at Colorado College, 3 p.m. Opening Game: Aug. 17 vs. LSU-Shreveport, 7 p.m. Opening Game: Aug. 17 vs. North Dakota, 4 p.m. Opening Game: Aug. 17 vs. Grambling, 7 p.m. Nicholls Colonels – Preseason Rank: 11th – 2017 Record/Place: 6-11-1 (3-7-1 SLC), 10thNicholls’ 2017 season came down to the wire, dropping a win-and-in match in double overtime on their regular season finale which eliminated the team from the Southland tournament contention. Third-year head coach Mac McBride looks to turn the page this season, beginning with an experienced roster featuring 15 upperclassmen. The Colonels will host 12 opponents this season for the first time since 2009, including eight of their first nine. Nicholls opens against North Dakota and Grambling in the opening weekend before a road matchup at Mississippi Valley State. Opening Game: Aug. 17 at North Texas, 7 p.m.