Nikki Hammond (Sr., F, Nelson, Minn.) and Rachelle Alcini (Jr., D, Ann Arbor, Mich.) were picked as the Golden Eagles’ Players to Watch.

The University of Minnesota Crookston soccer team was picked to finish 14th in the 2013 Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference Preseason Coaches’ Poll, which was released Tuesday afternoon by the league office. The team finished 15th in the 2012 standings after being picked to finish 16th in the 2012 preseason poll.

Nikki Hammond (Sr., F, Nelson, Minn.) and Rachelle Alcini (Jr., D, Ann Arbor, Mich.) were picked as the Golden Eagles’ Players to Watch. Hammond started all 18 games last season at the top of the formation for the Golden Eagles. She tallied one goal on the year and led the team with 30 shots. Alcini will anchor the UMC back line as one of the team’s center backs. She sat out last season after the coaching change but returned to the squad before spring practice. Alcini started all 18 games of the 2011 season for the Golden Eagles, helping the team to a 1.97 goals against average on the season.

Winona State University was picked first in the NSIC preseason poll with 215 points and 10 first-place votes. Minnesota State University, Mankato, entering their first year under Brian Bahl, who comes over from Upper Iowa University, was picked second in the poll with 213 points and five first-place votes while Minot State University was picked third overall.

Minot State center midfielder Zoe Fisher, who has scored 20 goals in the last two seasons, was picked as the NSIC Preseason Offensive Player of the Year. Upper Iowa goalkeeper Amanda Smith was picked as the NSIC Preseason Defensive Player of the Year. Smith registered 14 shutouts and tallied 83 saves last season for the Peacocks.

The Golden Eagles will hit the pitch for their second season under Joe Alianiello heading into the 2013 campaign. The UMC boss tallied a 2-15-1 record in his first season pulling off wins over University of Sioux Falls and Northern State University. In addition, the team earned a 0-0 tie against Augustana College (S.D.). The Golden Eagles were competitive in almost every game last season, despite only having 15 players on the roster. UMC lost five games by a one-goal deficit and five more games by a two-goal deficit.

UMC enters the 2013 campaign returning six starters from last year’s squad and four players who gave a significant contribution off the bench. In addition, the Golden Eagles bring in 14 new players including Alcini and Cayla Bendel (Jr., M, Lakeville, Minn.), who sat out last year after playing for UMC the season prior. In addition, the Golden Eagles add former Mayville State University and College of St. Scholastica player Betsey McIntyre as an assistant coach for the 2013 season.