Observer Staff

The Eastern Oregon University women’s soccer team will open the 2019 season where it closed the 2018 campaign — ranked 14th in the nation.

The Mountaineers held steady in the NAIA preseason coaches’ poll, which came out Wednesday, with their program-tying highest-ever ranking.

EOU had never been in the top 25 until last year, when it opened the season ranked 25th. It moved as high as 19th in the poll early in the regular season, then fell out for almost two months before re-entering late in the season and ending with its top finish.

The Mountaineers are the highest-ranked Cascade Collegiate Conference team, with Northwest (Washington), at No. 20, the only other team from the CCC in the poll.

William Carey (Mississippi), which defeated Eastern on the way to a national championship, is ranked No. 1.

Eastern’s first four opponents are all in the top 25, and three of the four are ranked ahead of the Mountaineers: No. 12 Hastings (Nebraska), No. 9 Midland (Nebraska), No. 10 Embry-Riddle (Arizona) and No. 24 Hope International (California). The Mountaineers’ opener at Hastings is Aug. 23.