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Carroll No. 1, SOU No. 5 in CCC coaches' poll

After closing out the 2015 season as one of the hottest clubs in the Cascade Conference, the Southern Oregon University women's soccer team is expected to be in the mix again this year, slotting in at No. 5 in the CCC coaches' preseason poll.

Defending champion Carroll (Mont.) is the favorite after receiving nine of 12 first-place votes in the poll, which was released Wednesday by the league office. College of Idaho and Eastern Oregon, which tied for second place with 9-2 conference records last year, were picked second and third. Rocky Mountain (Mont.), which was upset by SOU in the first round of the CCC tournament, was picked fourth.

With one exception, the order in the poll follows last year's final standings exactly.

The senior-laden Raiders will bring back eight starters, including three all-conference performers, from last year's team, which closed out the regular season with seven wins in its final nine games after a 1-6-2 start. They finished 8-9-3 overall and earned their sixth straight conference tourney berth with a 7-4 record in the CCC.

They also accomplished that with a specific disadvantage: Seven of their 11 conference games were played on the road due to a scheduling quirk that came about due to the CCC's addition of three new associate members. This year the schedule flips and the Raiders will play seven at home and just four on the road.

The top eight teams will advance to the conference tournament, where two automatic berths to the national tournament will be awarded.

Carroll also won the 2015 CCC tournament title, knocking out SOU in the semifinal round and defeating Eastern Oregon in the finals. The Saints went on to lose in the opening round of the NAIA tournament against Spring Arbor (Mich.), 3-0.