BRENTWOOD, Tenn. – The defending Ohio Valley Conference regular season champion University of Tennessee at Martin soccer team was picked to finish second in the annual preseason poll as voted on by the league’s head coaches and sports information director. In addition to the team honors, senior defender Maria Castaldo was tabbed as one of nine OVC Soccer Players to Watch.
OVC Tournament champion SIUE was picked to win the OVC after grabbing 11 first-place votes and 123 points while UT Martin – which won a share of its fifth regular-season title last season – earned seven first-place votes and 119 points to claim the runner-up position. Tennessee Tech picked up 96 points for a third-place predicted finish while Little Rock, one of three new members in the OVC this season, is picked to finish fourth with 72 points. Southeast Missouri earned 71 points for fifth place followed by Morehead State (58), Eastern Illinois (51), Southern Indiana (42) and Lindenwood (16) to round out the poll.
SOC: The votes are in and your defending OVC regular season champs are picked to finish second in the 2022 preseason poll. @UTMartinSoccer garnered seven first-place votes and 119 total points. #OVCit | #OVC75 pic.twitter.com/eLkkx1Yu6X
— UT Martin Athletics (@UTMSports) August 11, 2022
UT Martin won a share of its fifth regular-season title last season after going 6-2 in the OVC and 11-6-1 overall. The Skyhawks earned the top seed in the OVC Tournament and fell to SIUE in the championship match. Three-time OVC Coach of the Year Phil McNamara enters his 13th season as the head coach and boasts a roster which features seven returning starters, seven additional returners and welcomes eight newcomers.
Hailing from Orland Park, Ill., Castaldo is a three-year starter who has excelled since stepping on the pitch at UT Martin. She is a two-time All-OVC first team honoree in 2019 and 2020-21 while also adding an All-Newcomer selection as a freshman. During her career she has started 46 contests while tallying two assists and tabulating 4,275 minutes played. As a key anchor to the defensive unit, she has helped the Skyhawks post 12 shutouts over the past three seasons.
SOC: Congratulations to @UTMartinSoccer senior defender Maria Castaldo on being named an OVC Player to Watch for the 2022 season!
— UT Martin Athletics (@UTMSports) August 11, 2022
This season marks the 25th season of OVC soccer and the league welcomes three new teams in Lindenwood, Little Rock and Southern Indiana.
The soccer regular season will get underway on August 18 with the OVC Championship taking place at campus sites on October 28 & 30 and Nov. 4 & 6.
UT Martin will officially open its title defense on Sunday, Aug. 21 when playing host to Southeastern Conference foe Kentucky at Skyhawk Field. First touch is slated for 2 pm
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Amanda DaSilva – 5th year, MF – Eastern Illinois
DaSilva enters third year as a member of EIU team and will serve as the senior player in EIU’s midfield having started 16 of 17 matches last season. She was one of five position players to log more than 1,200 minutes on the field last season.
Sam Blazek, Sr., GK – Lindenwood
Blazek is back this year after missing half of last season due to injury. She a first team all-conference goalie in 2020 after posting four shutouts and ranked top 15 in the country in total minutes played and save percentage.
Natalee Geren, 5th year, D – Little Rock
Geren is entering her fifth season at Little Rock where she has helped the Trojan defense record 32 shutouts over her four seasons. She has played over 5,600 minutes in her career, starting 50 of her 53 matches played. She is on pace to break into the program’s top 10 in terms of number of games started.
Michelle Jerantowski, Sr., GK- Morehead State
Last season, Jerantowski started in all 18 matches, logging 1,615 minutes in goal. She made 76 saves while allowing 21 goals for a save percentage of 1.17, and finished the season tied for 5th in most shutouts in a season in program history with five.
Elizabeth Rater, So., MF – Southeast Missouri
Rater, a 2021 OVC Second-Team and All-Newcomer Team Selection, led Southeast Missouri offensively in 2021 with three goals and was second on the team with six points (3g). In conference play, she paced the Redhawks with two goals and four points in eight games.
Lily Schnieders, Jr., F – SIUE
Schnieders was a First Team All-OVC Selection last year. She was second in the league with 19 total points and 1.06 points per game. She also led the Conference with 48 total shots in 2021.
Maya Etienne, Sr., GK – Southern Indiana
Etienne set the USI career record for shutouts with 29 after recording eight last season. She led the team with a 0.81 goals-against average in 16 starts and 1453 minutes of action. She made 54 saves and posted a 10-5-1 record in 2021.
Chloe Smith, Sr., F – Tennessee Tech
Smith, an All-OVC First Team selection last year, finished sixth in the OVC in points with 11 while tying for seventh in goals with four. She also ranked sixth with four assists. Smith finished third in the league with 30 total shots and led the conference with 2.86 shots per game.
Maria CastaldoSr., D – UT Martin
Castaldo started all 18 games and tallied a pair of assists last season. She also recorded 10 shots, seven of which were on goal. She was part of a defense that surrendered a conference-low 16 goals.
2022 OVC WOMEN’S SOCCER PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH
(As selected by the OVC Women’s Head Soccer Coaches and Communication Directors)
1. SIUE (11 first-place votes) – 123
2. UT Martin (Seven first-place votes)- 119
3. Tennessee Tech – 96
4. Little Rock – 72
5. Southeast Missouri – 71
6. Morehead State – 58
7. Eastern Illinois – 51
8. Southern Indiana – 42
9. Lindenwood – 16