Despite winning a program-record 10 matches in 2011, the New Mexico State soccer team was picked eighth in the WAC Preseason poll, which is voted on by the league's nine head coach.
"The preseason poll is tough to gauge because you are trying to figure out who lost what players, who is getting in what players and who still has good players from last year," head coach Blair Quinn said. "We have four new teams in the conference, which really screws things up a little bit in terms of voting. I don't get too wound up about it.
"I think we were picked last in 2011, and we showed better than that. I anticipate the same thing will happen. No one wants to be eighth or ninth, but the bottom line is you have to finish the regular season in the top six to get into the tournament. That's the goal, and the ultimate goal is to win it."
Denver was selected as the favorite to win the WAC title. The 2012 Preseason All-WAC team and preseason players of the year were also announced. Denver received six first-place votes and 62 total points. The Pioneers return nine of their 11 starters from a team that went 16-5-0 in 2011.
Last year's WAC Tournament Champion Utah State was voted to finish second, receiving three first-place votes with a tally of 59 total points. Seattle was picked third with 47 points. San Jose State was picked fourth with 38 points, and Idaho was picked to finish in fifth place with 32 points. Texas State and UTSA finished in a tie for the sixth spot with 27 points each. The Aggies (19 points) and Louisiana Tech (13 points) were voted in the eighth and ninth spots, respectively.
Idaho senior forward Chelsea Small garnered preseason offensive player of the year honors for a second-straight season, while Utah State senior defender Natalie Norris was selected as the preseason defensive player of the year.
Denver and Idaho led WAC teams with three preseason all-conference selections each. Utah State had two honorees, while San Jose State, Seattle and UTSA each had one representative.
"It's a little disappointing not to have any of our kids be put on there, but it's probably going to be a little bit of a motivating factor," Quinn said. "We have a large senior class that has literally built this program from the ground up. At the end of the day, I think the seniors and several others will have something to say about the order of finish by the end of the season."
The 2012 WAC season is set to kickoff Aug. 17 with seven of the WAC's nine teams in action. The WAC Soccer Tournament heads to Utah State's Chuck and Gloria Bell Soccer Field in Logan, Utah. The six-team tournament will be held November 1-2, 4.
2012 WAC Preseason Coaches' Poll
1. Denver (6) 62
2. Utah State (3) 59
3. Seattle U 47
4. San Jose State 38
5. Idaho 32
T6. UTSA 27
T6. Texas State 27
8. New Mexico State 19
9. Louisiana Tech 13
2012 Preseason All-WAC Team
Kaitlin Bast Sr. F Denver
Kristen Hamilton Jr. F Denver
Chelsea Small Sr. F Idaho
Kelsey Lord Sr. F San Jose State
Nicholette DiGiamcomo Jr. MF Denver
Jill Flockhart Sr. MF Idaho
Kendra Pemberton Jr. MF Utah State
Monique Escalera Jr. D Seattle U
Anka Grotle Jr. D UTSA
Natalie Norris Sr. D Utah State
Liz Boyden Sr. GK Idaho
Preseason Offensive Player of the Year
Chelsea Small, Sr., F, Idaho
Preseason Defensive Player of the Year
Natalie Norris, Sr., D, Utah State