The SEC had a strong season with 6 teams reaching the NCAA Tournament in 2021 and two of the teams were very close to reaching the College Cup. There are four new Head Coaches which will add more competitiveness to the Conference. It seems like this Conference is growing with even more overall depth from top to bottom. The question is will the SEC emerge with a Team or Teams reaching the College Cup consistently year after year like the ACC and PAC 12 have had in recent years?
Arkansas are not only making the NCAA Tournament they are consistently winning in the postseason and in 2021 they were in Elite 8 in PKs against Rutgers where they just came up short. They won SEC for the third time in a row and the Razorbacks will look to build upon their growing competitive culture which will focus on getting to the College Cup in Cary, North Carolina. Head Coach Hale has reached the NCAA Tournament in 8 of his 10 seasons at the helm and is currently looking to make it 7 in a row this fall. They will open their Non-Conference campaign this Thursday on the road at St Louis who reached the NCAA 2nd round. Their final Non-Conference game is also on the road at maybe the toughest place in the country to play at BYU last season’s National Runners up. This should get them ready for the SEC and another deep run in the 2022 NCAA Tournament.
Tennessee is not messing around starting their Non-Conference off with 4 consecutive NCAA Tournament opponents and opening at UNC with the next three at home with SMU, Duke and Bowling Green. Aggressive scheduling usually means you have a very competitive squad and the Vols do just have that with defending SEC Tournament Champs a tons of goals and 10 returners added with a lot of depth and quality. What isn’t coming back is SEC Coach of the year Pensky who took a jet over to defending National Champions Florida St. Newly promoted Head Coach Kirt is entering his 16th season with the Vols and his first holding the reins and Associate Head Coach Morgan is still there too. So adapting to any new styles, formations and roles within the squad should remain clear and simple with so much of last year’s team culture returning.
Auburn returns 10 of 11 starters and brings majority of their goal scoring and playmaking punch back with 33 goals and 36 assists this all bodes well for the Tigers this season. Head Coach Hoppa enters her 24th season at The Plains with 17 NCAA Tournament Berths. In Non-Conference play they take on two very lively ACC opponents on the road at Florida St and a competitive Wake Forest team that did some damage in the postseason in 2021. This will lead them into two opening games on the road to start the SEC first at Missouri and then a trip to Fayetteville which could have major championship implications for both the Vols and Razorbacks.
South Carolina will be looking to go back to the College Cup like in 2017 and last season they reached the Elite 8 for fifth time under Head Coach Smith. This competitive culture should guide them to their 10th NCAA Tournament Berth in row and 16th overall. The Gamecocks are getting after it right away this Thursday inviting the defending National Champions Florida St to Columbia. They also play three other ACC foes which all made the NCAA Tournament with Clemson, NC State and Virginia Tech. If they get some Ws this will only boost their RPI even higher. This Non-Conference schedule will get them ready for their opening campaign in the SEC which is on the road at Alabama and Georgia stay tuned.
Ole Miss will look to continue their winning culture and reach new heights with the program. They return 8 starters with Orkus SEC GK of the Year for second straight time and O’Connor leading goal scorer for the Rebels this is a good foundation to start with. Head Coach Mott and his staff will look to get off to a strong start again this season; their record after 10 games was 7-1-2 and finishing 12-6-3 overall. Mississippi will be a candidate for their 11th NCAA Berth in the history of the program if they have consistent focus and execution like they did last season.
Alabama came off a very strong year in 2021 winning their first ever NCAA Tournament game at Clemson. Head Coach Hart and his staff will look to build upon last season by being a program that consistently makes the NCAA Tournament and uniquely in Non-Conference their two NCAA Tournament opponents they play are the two teams they played in the 2021 NCAA Tournament in Clemson and BYU. This should get the Crimson Tide ready with the opening of the SEC at home with South Carolina and then on the road with the Lady Vols.
The LSU Tigers were a very interesting team and one of last teams to get into the NCAA Tournament considering how inconsistent they were in the SEC finishing 9th with -3 GD. In Non-Conference they went on the road to knock off South Florida RPI 32 and then they had two huge wins late in the season at home against South Carolina RPI 24 and Arkansas RPI 3 those results gave them a big late boost. If they can find the consistency to execute throughout the season they won’t be leaving it to the last few games to see if they get in.
The Georgia Bulldogs as a new driver in Athens who brings a NCAA National Championship from USC on his resume and the whole staff too. Head Coach McAlpine and the Bulldogs will be coming full force this season with the focus on making their 10th NCAA Tournament Berth, but they have not made the dance since 2014 quite a drought. Last season they were just outside the bubble with the NCAAs. The key will be how quickly the Bulldogs will grasp the new culture that is being implemented and if that transition goes well they should add some tough competitive depth to an already very strong conference. They start Non-Conference quickly and it should be a great measuring stick this Sunday when Florida St the defending National Champions will stop by to try and take the Bulldogs bone it should be interesting.
The Commodores have reached the NCAA Tournament 4 of the last 5 years with last season coming up short but the consistent competitive culture has been growing with Head Coach Ambrose and his staff. Last Season in the SEC for example they lost to Arkansas 0-1 in OT and won 2-1 in OT against Tennessee which should tell you with the ability to stay switched on and execute throughout the year that they will be another team from SEC that can punch their ticket to the dance again.
Texas A+M Head Coach G and the Aggies most likely cannot wait for the start of the 2022 season after missing out on NCAA Tournament for the first time in 27 seasons, a truly remarkable record! In 2021 they opened with Florida St and TCU on the road and lost both games by 1 goal in close contests. Then the following week they beat Clemson and then lost another close contest in OT to Arkansas so the competitive edge was just a little short last season but they should be back at it this Fall.
Mississippi St are a strong defensive squad giving up only 19 goals but scoring only 15 but they are in every game they play in it seems. So if they can find consistent execution in front of goal that will add up to a deadly combination. We will have to wait and see what improvements will come to the Bulldogs this season.
Missouri may be the toughest team to read in the SEC. Last season they beat Notre Dame 3-2 in OT and Ole Miss 2-1 they ended with GD -20. Second year Head Coach Golan has reached the NCAA Tournament 5 times and brings plenty of experience. The Tigers will be looking to find consistency and build a defensive culture to move forward with for the future.
Florida is on the back to back years of new Head Coaches. They will look to rebuild under Bohon which she will need time to start creating her competitive culture. The Gators are the only program to win a National Championship under legendary Head Coach Burleigh for the SEC back in 1998 so championship tradition is there.
Kentucky New Head Coach Fabiano will look to get a winning culture going in Lexington like he had in Milwaukee. The Wildcats are bringing in quite few transfers so if the experience comes together with the returners they may move forward even quicker this season.
The SEC could have 8+ teams in the NCAA Tournament with the quality and depth they have and a number of teams playing strong Non-Conference schedules . It will then come down to if teams take care of business in Non-Conference and bring all that RPI to the SEC which will only boost everyones, keep watching and we will see where they are after their Non-Conference play.
Games to Watch
Thursday August 18th Florida St at South Carolina 7:00 PM EST SEC NETWORK
Thursday August 18th Tennessee at UNC 7:00 PM EST ACC NETWORK
Sunday August 21st Florida St at Georgia 1:00 PM EST ESPNU
Thursday September 8th Arkansas at BYU 7:00 PM MST BYUtv
Thursday September 15th South Carolina at Alabama 7:00 PM EST SEC NETWORK
Sunday September 18th LSU at Vanderbilt 10:00 AM EST ESPNU
Thursday September 22nd Auburn at Arkansas 6:00 PM CST SEC NETWORK
Sunday September 25th Arkansas at South Carolina 11:00 AM EST SEC NETWORK
Sunday September 25th Texas A+M at Alabama 7:00 PM EST SEC NETWORK
Sunday October 9th Tennessee at Georgia 1:00 PM EST SEC NETWORK