Lady Toppers picked to finish fifth in Conference USA

Allison Leone, Nicole Roseland and Chandler Backes have each earned a spot on the preseason all-Conference USA team while Western Kentucky has been picked fifth in the preseason coaches’ poll, announced by the conference office Monday.

The individual honors are the first preseason honors for each player and WKU’s three selections tied with Charlotte for the league high.

Western’s fifth-place position in the CUSA preseason coaches’ poll is its highest since joining the conference in 2014. Last season, the Lady Toppers were picked eighth and outperformed that preseason slot, posting a 12-6-1 record and notching a third-place finish in CUSA play. North Texas, with eight first-place votes, is picked to win the league.

One of the top keepers in CUSA over the last three seasons, Leone returns for her senior season on The Hill sporting a 0.99 career goals against average and 22 career shutouts. Last season, the Kennesaw, Ga., native surrendered just 11 goals in 1,648 minutes of action. Leone currently holds second place in the WKU career record book for goals against average and shutouts and ranks third in minutes (5,165), wins (30) and saves (225).

A steady force at holding midfielder for the Lady Toppers, Roseland returns for her junior season after picking up first team all-CUSA honors in 2016. Named the CUSA defensive player of the week Sept. 26, the Altamonte Springs, Fla., native helped to anchor a defensive side that gave up only 13 goals across 19 matches, the second-fewest in WKU history. Roseland has played in all 38 matches with 34 starts during her time with the Lady Toppers and will provide leadership for a defense that lost four significant starters from last season.

Backes enters her sophomore campaign coming off one of the finest offensive campaigns in program history during her first year on The Hill. As a freshman, she netted 10 goals, becoming one of only five players in school history to accomplish that feat in a single season.

Backes tallied match-winners against Morehead State, Marshall and Southern Mississippi and had a trio of two-goal matches during the 2016 season. On Sept. 6, she became the first player in school history recognized with a spot on TopDrawerSoccer.com’s national team of the week following a three-goal week.

The Lady Toppers kick off their season with a pair of exhibition matches on the road this weekend, first traveling to Saint Louis on Friday before squaring off against Murray State on Sunday.

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