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Aug. 2, 2006

SPOKANE, Wash. - The Gonzaga University women's soccer team has been selected to finish third in the 2006 West Coast Conference pre-season women's soccer poll, as voted by the conference's head coaches.

The third place selection for the Bulldogs marks the highest the team has ever been tabbed to finish.

The University of Portland, the defending national champion, was selected as the favorite to win the 2006 WCC regular-season title. The Pilots, who return eight starters from last year's championship squad, received five first-place votes to tally 47 overall points. Santa Clara University, which welcomes back 10 starters from last season's squad that advanced to the NCAA Quarterfinals, was selected second with 45 points, including three first-place votes. The Broncos are followed in the poll by GU (34) and Pepperdine University (31), which also participated in the 2005 NCAA Tournament. Selected fifth was the University of San Diego with 23 points, Loyola Marymount University was tabbed sixth with 21 points, while Saint Mary's College (15) and the University of San Francisco (7) rounded out this year's preseason poll in seventh and eighth place, respectively.

The Bulldogs earned a third place selection after coming off of a historic season in 2005. Last season the Zags advanced to their inaugural NCAA Tournament as well as setting single-season program records for wins with 12, most consecutive wins with seven, most shutouts with 11 and their highest finish ever in the WCC with a 3-1-3 record for a third place showing. Gonzaga returns 18 letterwinners, nine starters, from last season's squad, including sophomore Lori Conrad. Conrad, all a WCC All-Freshman and Second Team selection last year, will anchor a backline that led the conference during WCC play in 2005 recording six shutouts while allowing two goals and maintaining a 0.26 goals against average.

Portland, which captured its second national championship in the last four years, returns a talented nucleus, led by sophomore Megan Rapinoe, who recently made her first appearance with the U.S. Women's National Team. The Pilots will miss national Player of the Year Christine Sinclair and three-time All-American Lindsey Huie, but led by Rapinoe (15 goals, 13 assists), UP returns four of its top six goals scorers from the 2005 campaign. All-American junior defender Stephanie Lopez and senior goalkeeper Cori Alexander, the 2005 College Cup defensive MVP, return to lead the Pilot defense that surrendered just nine goals last season.

WCC Women's Soccer 2006 Pre-season Poll

(First-place votes in parenthesis)

Team          Pts.1. Portland - 47 (5)2. Santa Clara - 45 (3)3. Gonzaga - 344. Pepperdine - 315. San Diego - 236. Loyola Marymount - 217. Saint Mary's - 158. San Francisco - 7