San Antonio – The St. Mary’s women’s soccer team naturally expects itself to be one of the top competitors this season. And as it turns out, so does the rest of the Heartland Conference.
The league’s preseason polls have been released, having the Rattlers rank third in the initial rankings. Dallas Baptist and St. Edward’s split first place with 55 votes each from the conference’s coaches and sports information directors. Each schools received five first-place votes. St. Mary’s received 39 total votes, a respectable amount more than the fourth-place vote, which went to Newman with 23 votes.
Last season, the Lady Rattlers advanced to the conference tournament before being eliminated in the first round, making this season a chance for redemption. They spilt the season in conference, finishing 5-5 with an overall record of 8-8-2. But perhaps more notable than their record was the players who took charge of the green.
Four out of the five Lady Rattlers who earned All-Conference recognition will return in gold and blue once more, including one of the most decorated players, Kaitie Kasperitis (So., Corpus Christi, Texas).
In her first year of collegiate play, Kasperitis took to the competition with ease, quickly climbing to the top of St. Mary’s lineup and the conference leaderboard. The forward scored a team-high 11 goals and 26 points, placing her sixth in school history for most goals in a single season, while also landing her second in the conference for goals and points. In addition to her All-Conference selection, Kasperitis’ skill on the field earned her a Daktronics All-Region selection.
All-Conference selectees returning also include forward Leah Snelson (Jr., Dallas), defender Ashlyn Leighton (Jr., Houston) and midfielder Amanda Cardoza (Jr., El Paso, Texas). Snelson hopes to continue her reputation as a scoring threat, as she netted four goals and recorded three assists last season. Alongside her is returning player Leia Kirch (Sr., Carrollton, Texas), who netted seven goals last season – second most on the team. But Kirch is more known for her clutch abilities, scoring a team-high four game-winning goals, the second-highest amount in a single season in school history.
As predicted by the conference, the title will be a fight between Dallas Baptist, last year’s regular-season champion, and St. Edward’s, who took the conference title crown last season. But as the conference suspects, St. Mary’s will also be in the mix, charging to close the gap atop the league.