Southeastern Louisiana Lady Lions – Preseason Rank: 7th – 2018 Record/Place: 7-7-4 (4-4-3 SLC), 6thIn his second year at the helm, head coach Christopher McBride earned his first trip to the Southland Conference Tournament with a 4-4-3 mark in league play. The No. 7 team in the preseason poll holds the second-most regular season titles in conference history (5) and is tied for the most league tournament titles (4) among active members. McBride’s squad looks to continue building up with eight returning starters and 12 newcomers on the roster. FRISCO, Texas – The 2019 Southland Conference soccer season gets underway Thursday with four evening matchups, the first of 21 opening weekend games on the schedule. Opening Game: Aug. 23 vs. Southern, 7 p.m. Opening Game: Aug. 22 vs. Prairie View A&M, 7 p.m. Opening Game: Aug. 23 vs. Louisiana Tech, 7 p.m. Abilene Christian Wildcats – Preseason Rank: 1st – 2018 Record/Place: 15-6-1 (7-3-1 SLC), t-4thAfter winning the conference tournament in just their second season of postseason eligibility, the Wildcats enter the 2019 season as the favorites to win the conference. Finishing tied for fourth in the regular season, ACU upset No. 4 McNeese and top-seeded Central Arkansas on the way to the title game, where the Wildcats defeated No. 7 Stephen F. Austin 3-1. This team features a league-high eight preseason all-conference picks and return all but three student-athletes who took the field in the conference tournament championship match. Nicholls Colonels – Preseason Rank: 12th – 2018 Record/Place: 3-15 (1-10 SLC), 12thThe Colonels look to avoid another 12th-place finish under first-year head coach Danny Free, who begins his fifth season with the program after beginning as a graduate assistant and working his way up to assistant coach, interim head coach and ultimately head coach. Nicholls brings back six starters from the 2018 team, including goalie Roosa Hurmerinta, who notched 64 saves, and Blaire Laiche and Kristy Helmers, who combined for four goals in 2018. Opening Game: Aug. 22 at North Texas, 7 p.m. Lamar Cardinals – Preseason Rank: 3rd – 2018 Record/Place: 12-6-2 (7-2-2 SLC), 3rdThe league’s coaches and SIDs picked Lamar to finish third, the exact spot they finished in 2018 with a 7-2-2 record in conference matches. The Cardinals played host to the conference tournament and reached the semifinals, where they fell to No. 7 Stephen F. Austin 2-1. Lamar placed one on each of the preseason all-conference teams in first-team forward Madison Ledet and second-team forward Lucy Ashworth. Opening Game: Aug. 22 vs. Oklahoma State, 7:30 p.m. Houston Baptist Huskies – Preseason Rank: 5th – 2018 Record/Place: 10-8-1 (8-2-1 SLC), 2ndThe Huskies were picked to finish fifth in 2019 despite closing out last year’s campaign with the second-most points in the league, their highest finish since 2015. The longest-tenured coach in the conference, head coach Misty Jones enters her 14th season at the helm of HBU, holding a 38-21-8 (.627) league record since the Huskies joined the conference in 2013. The squad’s 12 returning letterwinners are headlined by Megan Rickert, a first-team selection at defender on the preseason all-conference teams. Central Arkansas Bears – Preseason Rank: 2nd – 2018 Record/Place: 16-4-1 (10-1 SLC), 1stThe Bears aim to defend their regular season championship after nearly running the table in 2018, entering the conference tournament as the top seed with a 10-1 mark. Winners of nine-straight to close last year’s regular season, UCA fell to eventual champion Abilene Christian in the semifinals. The Bears landed five on the preseason all-conference teams, led by first-team selections Hadley Dickinson and Connie Awuku-Darkoh. Week One Notes (PDF) Conference play begins on Sept. 20 with all 12 league teams in action. Defending Southland regular season champion Central Arkansas is set to host the 2019 Southland Conference Soccer Tournament at the Bill Stephens Track & Soccer Complex in Conway, Ark., from Nov. 6-10. UIW Cardinals – Preseason Rank: 11th – 2018 Record/Place: 3-12-1 (3-7-1 SLC), 9thThe Cardinals were just two points shy of qualifying for the program’s first Southland Conference Tournament in the first year under head coach Emma Wright-Cates. UIW returns 15 letterwinners and 11 of those individuals are sophomores or juniors. The Cardinals finished their season ranked 15th in the nation in saves (112) and the squad’s seven saves per game led the conference. Stephen F. Austin Ladyjacks – Preseason Rank: 6th – 2018 Record/Place: 7-9-3 (3-5-3 SLC), t-7thThe Ladyjacks head into 2019 at the preseason No. 6 spot after finishing as the runner-up at the conference tournament for the second-straight year in 2018. Stephen F. Austin placed two on each of the preseason all-conference squads, including first-team honorees Carli Arthurs and Sophia Fondren. The program holds 10 all-time regular-season titles, the last coming in 2015, and won its last tournament title in 2012. This year is the 23rd edition of Southland women’s soccer, a conference sport since 1997. Sam Houston State kicks off first at home against Houston at 6:30 p.m. CT. Houston Baptist plays host to Prairie View A&M and Northwestern State visits North Texas at 7 p.m. Lamar hosts Oklahoma State at 7:30 p.m. to conclude the opening day action. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Islanders – Preseason Rank: 9th – 2018 Record/Place: 5-9-3 (2-7-2 SLC), t-10thThe Islanders, who missed qualifying for the conference tournament in 2018, are the No. 9 team in the preseason poll. A&M-Corpus Christi had a pair of encouraging preseason exhibitions, including a 1-0 win over reigning Big 12 champion Baylor in Waco. Goalkeeper Kyleigh Hall didn’t allow a goal in 180 minutes of preseason action. Opening Game: Aug. 23 at New Mexico State, 5 p.m. Opening Game: Aug. 25 at Arizona State, 8 p.m. Opening Game: Aug. 23 vs Mississippi Valley State, 4 p.m. McNeese Cowgirls – Preseason Rank: 4th – 2018 Record/Place: 13-7-1 (7-3-1 SLC), t-4thThe preseason No. 4 Cowgirls are coming off a tie for fourth place in 2018, and McNeese’s 13-7-1 season came to an end at the hand of the tournament champions Abilene Christian in the opening round of the conference tournament. The Cowgirls are bringing back eight of their 11 starters from last season, including six members of the preseason all-conference teams. Opening Game: Aug. 23 at College of Charleston, 7 p.m. Opening Game: Aug. 22 vs. Houston, 6:30 p.m. Opening Game: Aug. 23 at Colorado College, 8 p.m. Sam Houston State Bearkats – Preseason Rank: 10th – 2018 Record/Place: 3-12-3 (2-7-2 SLC), t-10thAt the No. 10 preseason spot are the Bearkats, led by the second-longest serving active coach in the Southland Conference, Tom Brown. He enters his 12th season at the helm with Sam Houston State, bringing with him 16 returning letterwinners and six seniors. Perhaps the biggest hole for Sam Houston State to fill will be goalkeeper Christina Hendershot, who made 52 of the Bearkats’ conference-best 82 saves in Southland contests. Northwestern State Lady Demons – Preseason Rank: 8th – 2018 Record/Place: 10-10 (4-7 SLC), t-7thFirst-year co-head coaches Jess and Anna Jobe brought the Demons back to the conference tournament and look to repeat the feat in 2019. The No. 8 team in the preseason poll will also have a new look with only five juniors and seniors opposite 14 new faces. Among the returners are two members of the back line, Nicole Henry and Ashley Medawattage, and netminder Kayla Bomben. Opening Game: Aug. 23 at Texas State, 7 p.m.
(Photo by: Adam Green) The Arizona Cardinals established themselves as a powerhouse in the NFC last season with a franchise-best 13 wins. Coming off a trip to the NFC Championship game, the Cardinals are poised to make another serious Super Bowl run.Potential championship teams rely on veteran leadership, which the Cardinals have in quarterback Carson Palmer and wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, but also the emergence of young talent.General manager Steve Keim has made a living off finding that young talent deep in the draft, the most recent being running back David Johnson and wide receiver J.J. Nelson. Both of which appear on Football Outsiders’ top-25 breakout prospects of 2016. The top-25 list is constructed by scouting, statistics, measurables, context, expected role and information from sources. This year’s list is restricted to players drafted in the third-round or later who entered the league between 2013 and 2015, have played fewer than 500 career offensive or defensive snaps, have not signed a contract extension and are 26 years or younger.Johnson has been one of the most talked-about young talents in the league this offseason. Experts have thrown every prediction at the 24-year-old from finishing top-five in rushing yards to being a high-end fantasy draft pick.Football Outsiders’ Rivers McCown is firmly behind all of these projections, as he listed Johnson as his No. 1 breakout prospect.You may remember Mr. Johnson as a major swing factor for your fantasy football league last winter. His advanced statistics certainly backed up the touchdowns: Johnson finished fourth in rushing DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average) and eighth in DYAR (Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement) in his rookie season. And while he’s not a dumbfoundingly obvious talent like Todd Gurley, that’s the reason the Cardinals were able to get Johnson in the third round. At 6-foot-1, 224 pounds, Johnson is built to be a workhorse back. He also made outstanding plays as a receiver, finishing sixth in receiving DYAR among running backs and averaging 4.0 more yards after the catch than expected given where he caught those passes. The usual caveats about running backs apply — high attrition, increased role-splitting — but Johnson sure looks like a franchise running back as we enter 2016.Johnson averaged 88.4 rushing yards in the final five games of last season, highlighted by his 187-yard performance in Philadelphia in Week 15. The running back was a magnet for the end zone, scoring a total of 13 touchdowns in 2015, which tied for fifth-most in the league. Johnson is expected to share the workload in the backfield this season, but head coach Bruce Arians expressed his confidence in the young running back in training camp.“He was another one of those very, very mature rookies that you knew you weren’t going to overload him, but you still didn’t want him to get put into a situation that was going to overload him mentally and hurt somebody else,” Arians told reporters. “He’s done a great job of preparing, now it’s like he’s a five-year vet. He’s done it all; he’s still progressing as a receiver, more and more things you can do with him.”Another Cardinal that is progressing as a receiver is J.J. Nelson. The 24-year-old out of the University of Alabama at Birmingham didn’t have as big of an impact as Johnson did last season, only compiling 11 receptions for 299 yards and two touchdowns.However, McCown listed Nelson as the No. 24 prospect and he believes the wideout has an opportunity to make a name for himself.Last year, Nelson was a situational speedster, the guy that rocketed through the middle of the defense to catch Carson Palmer bombs. This is the sort of skill set that, in a good offense, leads to 23.7 yards per reception. Nelson’s future in the league is harder to forecast. He’s tiny enough (listed 5-foot-10, 160 pounds) that it’s hard to buy him as an outside receiver. He came out of UAB with almost zero ability to make tacklers miss. Head coach Bruce Arians is big on the receiver’s future, calling him “unique” at tracking the ball over his shoulder. It’s possible that Arians seems similarities to a player the Colts drafted while he was in Indy: T.Y. Hilton. For the near future, Nelson is behind three great receivers on the depth chat. To become more, he’ll need to show more ability to deal with the physical grind of the league. He’ll also need to get better after the catch — he gained more than three yards after the catch on just two of his receptions.The “three great receivers” ahead of Nelson on the depth chart, which include Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd and John Brown, could go down to one sooner than he might expect. While Fitzgerald has given no indication about retiring, the soon-to-be 33-year-old might call it quits if the team wins a championship. Floyd is in the final year of his contract, so the possibility exists he could be wearing another uniform in 2017. 0 Comments Share Former Cardinals kicker Phil Dawson retires Derrick Hall satisfied with D-backs’ buying and selling Top Stories Nonetheless, Nelson is continuing to learn and develop behind these receivers, and understands the most important goal for this team is to win.“I’m all about winning,” the receiver told Bertrand Berry on Off the Edge on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Monday. “At the end of the day, if it’s my job to line up wide and run all the way down field full speed to get Larry wide open underneath I’ll take that, as long as we win and as long as we get those rings on our finger at the end of the day — that’s all I’m looking forward to.” The 5: Takeaways from the Coyotes’ introduction of Alex Meruelo Grace expects Greinke trade to have emotional impact