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Redhawks open OVC play against probable contender
Both Southeast and Morehead State are expected to be among the conference front-runners.
The Southeast Missouri State women's soccer team beat Morehead State 2-0 last year to win its first Ohio Valley Conference tournament championship.
That victory garnered the Redhawks their first NCAA tournament berth.
Tonight, those two squads meet in Morehead, Ky., in the opening OVC game for both teams.
"We're looking forward to starting the conference season, and for us it will start off with a bang, with us and Morehead both picked in the top three," Southeast coach Heather Nelson said.
The Redhawks (3-2-1) were picked third and the Eagles (1-5) second in the OVC preseason poll voted on by the league coaches and sports information directors.
Southeast actually received more first-place votes than Morehead -- four to two -- but the Eagles garnered one more point, 133 to 132.
Nelson said the Eagles' record so far is not indicative of the squad's talent.
"They have played a tough schedule and been close in a lot of games," Nelson said. "They will be a very good team."
Samford is the heavy favorite to claim its fifth straight OVC regular-season title, as the Bulldogs received 12 first-place votes and 155 points.
The Bulldogs and Tennessee-Martin have the league's best nonconference records at 5-3, with Southeast having the No. 3 mark.
"I think they [Samford] have had a really solid start," Nelson said. "I would think they would have to hold that position [of favorite]."
Nelson said she was has been pleased with the way the Redhawks have performed in their six nonconference games.
"I think our performances have been pretty consistent," Nelson said. "I think we are playing some good soccer."
Southeast's last outing was a 2-0 win over Air Force during a tournament in St. Louis on Sept. 16.
The Redhawks have not played an official game since then, although they did square off with a Southeast alumni team Saturday.
Nelson said she is not worried about the layoff affecting the Redhawks.
"We had played seven games in four days, so we were pretty beat up," she said. "We have needed that recovery time to get our players as close to healthy as possible."
Senior Alaina Lacopo leads the Redhawks with three goals, while sophomore Courtney Alexander and freshman Ashley Runion both have two goals.
Alexander leads in assists with three, giving her seven points. Lacopo also has seven points.
Following tonight's match, the Redhawks will remain on the road to play Eastern Kentucky (1-5-2) on Sunday.
The Colonels were picked ninth in the 10-team conference.
Southeast has its first OVC home game Oct. 5 against Austin Peay. The Redhawks play five of their nine league games at Houck Stadium.