The Westminster College men's soccer team has been picked as the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference favorites in the 2014 Coaches Preseason Poll. Westminster received 78 total points including seven first-place votes. Webster University was picked second with 73 points and received the remaining three first-place votes.
Westminster finished last year with an unprecedented run into the Third Round of the NCAA Tournament. The Blue Jays won 10 of their last 12 games and finished with a 13-9-1 overall record while capturing the program's first ever SLIAC Tournament title. The Blue Jays went 8-1 in conference play last year under head first-year head coach Andrew Bordelon. He brings back seven starters and 23 players from last year's squad including a pair of First Team All-Conference performers in Daryl Doran and Drew Cook. Cook, a sophomore forward, led the team in scoring with 20 points last year on eight goals and four assists. Doran, a junior defender, will anchor the defense which provides support for netminder Raul Romero. Romero, a sophomore, finished last year first in goals against average and save percentage during conference action.
Webster, who fell to the Blue Jays in the SLIAC Tournament Championship game 2-1, was picked second in the preseason poll. The Gorloks were 14-4-3 overall last year, going 8-1 during conference play. An experience club featuring nine starters returns for head coach Michael Siener. The Gorloks allowed a conference low 22 goals last season led by the defending duo of Jacob Stieb and Jeff Wallner. Stieb, a senior, earned First Team All-Conference and All-Region honors last year while Wallner was named Second Team All-Conference. If the attack gets behind the defense the Gorloks have senior keeper Brian Woodward, a two-time All-Conference performer, in net. Seniors Kris Brown and MIke Wells combined for 11 goals last season and will lead the Gorlok attack.
Fontbonne University was chosen third in the preseason poll with 66 points. The Griffins were 13-7-1 overall one year ago, tying with Westminster and Webster for a share of the regular season title. Fontbonne, under the guidance of head coach Brian Hoener, tied for second in the SLIAC in goals scored with 54. However they will have to replace the 2013 Player of the Year Zach Meyer and three other First Team All-Conference players who graduated from last year. Austin Willenbrock is the team's leading returning scorer with five goals and two assists.
Spalding University was picked fourth in the poll, receiving 54 points. Spalding went 10-9 overall and finished with a 5-4 mark in the SLIAC. Head Coach Adam Boyer, in his third year, returns nine starters and 20 players including former SLIAC Newcomer of the Year and one of the top playmakers in the conference, junior midfielder Julio De Leon. De Leon has led the conference in assists in each of his first years, totaling 21 assists, and was named First Team All-Conference in 2012 and 2013 while earning All-Region honors last year. Also returning is sophomore forward Abdullahi Abdullahi, a Second Team All-Conference member last year, and team captain senior defender Deron Buehner. The Golden Eagles will look for an immediate impact from sophomore forward Abdirahman Aden, a transfer from Cincinnati State.
Greenville College and Principia College tied for fifth in the poll with 46 total points. Greenville was 6-10-4 in their first year under head coach Chris Swift but went 5-3-1 in conference play. The Panthers return just three starters from last year's squad. Spencer Pulliam, a senior forward, was second on the team in scoring last year with five goals and five assists; earning Second Team All-Conference honors. Senior goalkeeper Thomas Crown is back in net and will be helped by junior defender Elliot Thompson. A pair of newcomers in freshmen Jose Mondragon and Mukiza Rushimisha could see time for the Panthers.
Principia was 6-9-3 overall but 4-4-1 in the SLIAC last season. The Panthers are led by Vitalis Otieno, who is in his 12th season at the helm of the program. The Panthers will look to senior defender Leif Carlson, who was named Second Team All-Conference last year, to fill the void left by former All-Conference defender John Gotwals. Carlson recorded five goals from his back position, tying for second on the team. The Panthers also return their leading scorer from last year in senior Nate Waters, who tallied seven goals and six assists.
MacMurray College was picked seventh in the preseason poll receiving 30 total points. The Highlanders will be guided by new head coach Bill Koeppen. The Highlanders were 2-16-1 overall last year, finishing 1-7-1 in the SLIAC. MacMurray does return 10 starters including seven seniors. The offense will once again go through the duo of Ari Sandoval and Brad Wise. Sandoval and Wise tied for the team lead with five goals while Sandoval added a team best four assists. Also back are junior defender Andy Alvarez and junior midfielder Zac Bozarth. A group of newcomers in freshmen keeper Tyler Marfo and midfielder Bryce Oberg and junior Devin Maggio could push for playing time.
Blackburn College was picked eighth in the poll with 26 points. Blackburn went 7-10-1 in their first season under head coach Rob Steinkuehler. The Beavers finished conference play with a 2-7 record. Blackburn brings back their top three scorers from last year, led by junior Mike Stephenson. Stephenson netted 10 goals and two assists last year. He is joined by Nate Kinnison, who led the team with eight assists, and Julian Valencia, who added six goals. In net the Beavers return senior Shane Rogers who stopped the third most shots in the conference last season with 138 saves.
Iowa Wesleyan is starting their second year of play in the SLIAC and were picked to finish ninth in the standings with 19 total points. The Tigers were 1-15-1 overall last season and bring back three starters including honorable mention All-Conference performer Bo Vitale. Vitale netted a team high five goals with two assists last year. Also back are junior defender Cody Bossio and sophomore Giovanni Miranda. The Tigers will look for big minutes from a class of newcomers which includes netminder Mitchell Schneider, midfielder Dalton Carpenter and defender Jose Gutierrez.
Eureka College was chosen 10th in the poll after going 2-14 overall and 1-8 in the SLIAC last season. The Red Devils will be breaking in a new head coach this season as Dwain Barker takes over the program. The Red Devils will need to turn up their offensive attack this year after managing just 11 goals last year but they do return their leading scorer in Mark Meyer. Meyer tallied three goals and one assist last year for Eureka.
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