Four Tennessee soccer players were named to the SEC Preseason Watchlist, the conference announced on Tuesday.
Coming off of years in which they all earned All-Conference honors, seniors Katie Cousins, M.A. Vignola and Maya Neal are looking to repeat their success of last year with redshirt junior Erin Gilroy rounding out the list.
The Vols are coming off of perhaps their most historic season in program history, recording 16 wins while reaching the Elite Eight for the first time. UT also logged its second consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance under head coach Brian Pensky, the third overall during his tenure.
A native of Forest, Virginia, Cousins was a Third Team All-American selection for the second consecutive season while collecting First Team All-SEC honors as a midfielder. The backbone of UT’s attack, she tallied career highs in goals (three), points (10), and assists (four) while helping UT reach new heights, including the program’s first win in Gainesville since 2006.
Cousins is ranked as the fifth-best player in the country according to TopDrawerSoccer.com and also participated in the 2016 U-20 FIFA World Cup.
Having spent time as dual-sport athlete, Neal’s impressive physical conditioning was on full display a year ago as she not only led the Vols in minutes on the pitch, but anchored a backline that recorded 12 shutouts and allowed just 13 total goals on the year.
A back-to-back First Team All-SEC and All-Region selection, Neal will be looking to carry over that success as the Vols look to return to the postseason for the third straight season.
Tennessee’s leading returning scorer, Vignola tallied three goals, six assists and 12 points in 2018 as she earned All-SEC recognition for the first time in her career. She heads into the regular season ranked no. 98 in TopDrawerSoccer’s Division I preseason rankings.
Hailing from Cincinnati, Ohio, Vignola modeled her game after U.S. Women’s National Team legend Mia Hamm and is active in several philanthropic organizations.
Despite suffering from an ACL tear that saw her season end prematurely, Gilroy notched two goals and two assists and assisted on the game-winning goal at Florida. A redshirt junior, Gilroy’s role will likely increase even more heading into this year with many of the veteran mainstays lost to graduation.
No. 10 Tennessee kicks off regular season play on Thursday, Aug. 22 at Regal Soccer Stadium as it hosts Fordham. Festivities are slated to begin at 7 p.m. ET.