Big Ten west soccer preview


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This is part two-of-two in a geographical preview of the Big Ten conference for women’s soccer.

Last year’s record: 11-9-3 (5-5-1)
2013 postseason RPI: 41
To say the Illini got lucky last year is something of a major understatement. Despite losing in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament, they still made it to the NCAA Tournament — in which they made it all the way to the third round. This season, the Illini have 10 new players, and while they will hang around the top, the team is not quite as talented as it was last season.

Last year’s record: 15-7-1 (5-5-1)
2013 postseason RPI: 37
The Hawkeyes earned their first-ever NCAA championships bid last season, and while on paper they look like they might repeat that feat, the reality is a bit different. Iowa has been decimated by injuries, and it’s going to be a tall task for senior Cloe Lacasse to carry this team back to the Big Ten Tournament championship game.

Last year’s record: 11-8-2 (4-5-2)
2013 postseason RPI: 35
Minnesota added nine freshmen this season, and it will struggle to score against some of the better teams in the Big Ten. Expect the Gophers to hang near the bottom of the Big Ten despite star sophomore goalkeeper Tarah Hobbs lurking in net. Hobbs was the 2013 Big Ten Goalkeeper of the Year and it will not be a shocker if she wins the award again.

Last year’s record: 19-4-1 (10-1)
2013 postseason RPI: 8
While Nebraska may be the returning regular-season and Big Ten Tournament champions, the chances they repeat this year are slim to none. They graduated a good portion of their starters last season and will not have the luck they did last season. The Huskers may make a return to the NCAA Tournament this year, but this year will not be as successful as last.

Last year’s record: 3-14-2 (1-10)
2013 postseason RPI: 179
Despite an awful season last year, the Wildcats are a team to watch this season. Northwestern returns the majority of their starters from a very young roster last season and that alone could give them a major leg up in conference play. With a few balls rolling their way, this is a team who could challenge for a bid in the big dance.

Last year’s record: 8-10-1 (3-8)
2013 postseason RPI: 108
Purdue did not make the eight-team field of the Big Ten Tournament last season, and it will be hard-pressed to get in this season. The Boilermakers bring in eight new freshmen who will have growing pains as they acclimate themselves to the rigors of the Big Ten. The team could certainly surprise a couple teams, but they will not do enough damage to get themselves a spot.

Last year’s record: 10-7-2 (5-5-1)
2013 postseason RPI: 62
Wisconsin gets back two of the best players in the Big Ten — both sophomore Rose Lavelle and junior Kinley McNicoll will return to the team after both played in the U-20 World Cup last year. The Badgers are going to be good this year. Scary good. Outside of Penn State, it is difficult to see who could challenge Wisconsin for the Big Ten title — and maybe more than that.

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