After finishing last season at No. 2 in the country, there wasn’t much of a higher perch that the West Virginia University women’s soccer team could climb.
Yet, entering the 2017 season, the Mountaineers scaled that last step.
WVU was ranked No. 1 Friday in the United Soccer Coaches (formerly National Coaches Association of America) preseason poll. It marks the first time the Mountaineers have opened the season in the top spot.
West Virginia spent plenty of time in that top spot last season. In 2016, WVU captured its first No. 1 ranking and held the spot for eight weeks. The Mountaineers reached the NCAA Women’s College Cup title game, losing to Southern California. USC is ranked third in the preseason, while Stanford will begin the year ranked No. 2.
The Mountaineers will have a major test in its season opener, visiting No. 5 Georgetown on Aug. 18. The Hoyas are one of four WVU opponents in 2017 ranked in the preseason, joining No. 11 Virginia, No. 12 Duke and No. 16 Oklahoma.
The Mountaineers return nine starters and 15 letter-winners from a team that posted a program-record 23 wins and 18 shutouts. Both totals also were the best in the nation last season. WVU swept the Big 12 regular-season and tournament titles for the third time in four years. The team will be led by NSCAA second team All-America forward Michaela Abam, who finished 24th nationally with 33 points (12 goals and nine assists).
The Mountaineers play Michigan in an exhibition at U-M Soccer Stadium at 1 p.m. Monday, then host Bowling Green at 1 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 12 in another exhibition at Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadium.