Forest, Va. -- The road to another Old Dominion Athletic Conference championship starts with defense.
And that's a good thing for University of Lynchburg's field hockey team, because the 2019 back line will look identical to the one that helped the Hornets hoist a 2018 conference title trophy.
"We're used to playing together," junior defender Alexis Brown said. "We don't have to worry about teaching people new things, and we can go back into the rhythm that we had."
Lynchburg was voted the favorite to win the ODAC in 2019, according to the league's annual coaches poll, which the conference office released Friday afternoon.
The Hornets enjoyed a comfortable lead in the voting and took a maximum eight first-place votes, outpacing second-place Shenandoah, last season's runner-up, by nine points. Washington and Lee was picked third and received the remaining top nod.
Lynchburg carried a 16-6 record a season ago and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Division III tournament, outscoring opponents 13-5 in four postseason games.
Three All-ODAC players -- Brown, junior forward Jackie Lerro, and junior midfielder Emma Strouse -- return for the Hornets, along with four other returning starters. Brown and Lerro both garnered all-region honors.
Brown expects the incoming class to contribute right away as well.
"They have different things to bring to the table," she said.
The Hornets will find out soon. Lynchburg opens the season at home Saturday, Aug. 31 against Lebanon Valley at 1 p.m. on Shellenberger Field.
RELATED: 2019 Lynchburg field hockey schedule
Lynchburg is in search of the program's 20th ODAC championship, more than all other conference programs' combined titles.
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2019 ODAC FIELD HOCKEY PRESEASON POLL
First-place votes in parentheses
1. University of Lynchburg (8) 64 pts.
2. Shenandoah University 53 pts.
3. Washington and Lee University (1) 50 pts.
4. Roanoke College 42 pts.
5. Randolph-Macon College 39 pts.
6. Bridgewater College 28 pts.
7. Virginia Wesleyan University 25 pts.
8. Eastern Mennonite University 12 pts.
9. Ferrum College 11 pts.