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A preview of women’s college soccer in the Carolinas

Charlotte 49ers sophomore forward Martha Thomas (right) was Conference USA Freshman of the Year in 2014.
Charlotte 49ers sophomore forward Martha Thomas (right) was Conference USA Freshman of the Year in 2014. rlahser@charlotteobserver.com

Women’s college soccer begins this weekend throughout the Carolinas. Following is a preview of the 2015 season:

Players to watch

(listed alphabetically)

Garcelle Alequine, senior midfielder, Lenoir-Rhyne: Division II All-America in 2014, with 14 goals and 34 points.

Katie Bowen, senior midfielder, North Carolina: Member of New Zealand's national team; preseason All-ACC; on Hermann Trophy watch list.

Vicky Bruce, senior midfielder, Davidson: A Cannon School product who is the team’s leading returning scorer.

Ashley Clark, senior forward, Campbell: Big South preseason Offensive Player of Year; leading active goal-scorer in conference.

Stephanie DeVita, senior midfielder, Furman: Two-time Southern Conference Player of the Year; her 50 career goals are 10 short of breaking conference record.

Katrin Guillou, senior forward, UNC Wilmington: Led team with eight goals and 18 points in 2014.

Savannah McCaskill, sophomore forward, South Carolina: The SEC Freshman of the Year in 2014, when she led the team with 15 points.

Toni Payne, junior midfielder, Duke: Three game-winning goals and 19 points last year.

Kaileen Sheridan, junior goalkeeper, Clemson: First-team All-ACC in 2014, allowing 0.56 goals a game.

Martha Thomas, sophomore forward, Charlotte: Second-team freshman All-America last season, with 11 goals and 28 points.

Conference races

ACC: Florida State, the No. 1 team in the national coaches’ preseason poll, is the favorite. Virginia, North Carolina, Notre Dame and Virginia Tech are also highly ranked.

American Athletic: East Carolina is picked sixth, with Connecticut as the big favorite.

Atlantic 10: Davidson is picked 13th of the 14 teams, with Dayton and La Salle expected to finish at the top.

Big South: Liberty won the regular-season title last year and High Point took the tournament title. They, along with Coastal Carolina, are the top teams.

Colonial Athletic: Northeastern looks to defend its title. UNC Wilmington is a preseason fifth-place pick, with Elon and College of Charleston near the bottom.

Conference USA: Rice, North Texas and Charlotte are the top picks.

South Atlantic: Lenoir-Rhyne has won five straight titles but could get a challenge from Wingate.

SEC: Florida (No. 8 in coaches’ national preseason poll), South Carolina (11) and Kentucky (16) are top picks.

Southern: Samford won the regular-season title a year ago, but Furman will push for the crown.

Sun Belt: Appalachian State is picked sixth with South Alabama as the favorite.

Games to watch

Sept. 7, South Carolina at Charlotte: The 49ers take a shot at one of the SEC’s powerhouses.

Sept. 27, Duke at Virginia: The Blue Devils have the talent to join the ACC’s elite.

Oct. 8, Davidson at Dayton: The Wildcats test the A-10 preseason favorite.

Oct. 11, North Carolina at Florida State: Tar Heels get a shot at the nation’s No. 1 team.

Oct. 22, South Carolina at Florida: First place in the SEC could be at stake.

Oct. 24, Lenoir-Rhyne at Wingate: The area’s top Division II schools clash.

Carolinas Top 10

1. North Carolina

2. South Carolina

3. Clemson

4. Furman

5. Duke

6. Charlotte

7. Lenoir-Rhyne

8. High Point

9. UNC Wilmington

10. Wingate