Coming off their sixth straight NJCAA National Tournament appearance, Butler soccer will open the 2017 season ranked seventh in the nation.
Butler, one of only two Jayhawk Conference teams ranked in the opening poll, has now been ranked in the NJCAA preseason top ten for six straight seasons.
Defending champion Paradise Valley (Ariz.) tops the poll, while Monroe CC (N.Y.), Tyler (Texas), Laramie County (Wyo.) and Eastern Florida State rounded out the top five. Iowa Western, who Butler opens the season against on Tuesday at 2:00 p.m. in Council Bluffs, is ranked sixth in the opening poll.
Joining Butler in the preseason poll from the Jayhawk Conference was Johnson County at No. 12. The Grizzlies defeated the Cavaliers 4-1 in last year's Region VI championship game to win their fifth straight regional title.
The preseason poll marks the 63rd straight NJCAA poll to feature Butler in the rankings. In addition to opening in the preseason top ten the last six years, the Grizzlies have also finished in the NJCAA top ten in each of the last six seasons.
The Grizzlies (21-3 overall, 12-0 conference in 2016) will begin the season Tuesday with a road non-conference contest at No. 6 Iowa Western. Kickoff from Council Bluffs is at 2:00 p.m.
Butler returns 12 sophomores, including four All-KJCCC East first-team selections in forward Kennedy Weaver (Valley Center), midfielders Katie Hartman (Derby), Holly Stewart (Aberdeen, Scotland) and back Sam Simmons (Derby). Sophomore back Taylor Martinez (Goddard) also provides experience, as she started 18 of 21 games last season.
Hartman and Weaver are Butler's top leading returning goal scorers, as both players netted eight goals last season. Hartman added eight assists for 24 points while starting 22 of 24 contests last year, while Weaver had three assists.
Also returning for Butler are goalkeeper Elena Garcia (Salina; 3-0, 0.68 GAA in 10 appearances), midfielders Michelle Palfrey (Monrovia, Calif.; scored five goals in six games), Taylor Edson (Newton) and forward Ky Kreemer (Wichita; four goals, five assists in 21 games). Backs Tiffany Butler (Garden City), Jordan Russell (Derby), and Maggie Maloney (Wichita) return as part of an experienced backfield that allowed 0.86 goals per game last year.
Butler's non-conference schedule will be a challenging one, as four of its first five matches are against ranked competition. Following Tuesday's game at Iowa Western, the Grizzlies will host Rose State (Okla.) in Friday's home opener at 11 a.m. Butler will then play No. 16 Northern Oklahoma-Tonkawa on Sunday at 7 p.m.
The following weekend, Butler will head to Tyler, Texas to face No. 10 Navarro on Friday, Sept. 1 at 2 p.m. and No. 3 Tyler on Sunday at 10 a.m.
Butler has nine home games on the 2017 schedule, beginning with Friday's home opener against Rose State (Okla.). The Grizzlies will open Jayhawk Conference play against Coffeyville on Friday, Sept. 8 at 7 p.m. The home match against the Ravens begins a three-game home stretch, as Butler will face No. 12 Johnson County on Sept. 10 and Neosho County on Sept. 13, with both matches starting at 7:00 p.m.
|2017 NJCAA PRESEASON TOP 20 SOCCER POLL|
|Aug. 15, 2017|
|1.||Paradise Valley, Ariz.||25-0-1|
|2.||Monroe CC, N.Y.
|4.||Laramie County, Wyo.||19-2-3|
|5.||Eastern Florida State||14-3-0|
|8.||Monroe College, N.Y.||9-1-3|
|11.||Daytona State, Fla.||11-3-0|
|13.||Lewis & Clark, Ill.||16-2-1|
|15.||ASA New York||11-1-2|
|18.||Cape Fear, N.C.||17-3-0|
|19.||Jones County, Miss.||15-2-0|
Other schools receiving votes: Chandler-Gilbert, Ariz.; Harford, Md.; Hutchinson; Indian Hills, Iowa; Moraine Valley, Ill.; Utah State Eastern.