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Blue Jays Top 2016 SLIAC Men's Soccer Preseason Poll

Blue Jays Top 2016 SLIAC Men's Soccer Preseason Poll

The Westminster College Blue Jays are the overwhelming favorites to defend their St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SLIAC) Men's Soccer title, having received 81 total points and find themselves atop the 2016 SLIAC Men's Soccer Preseason Poll. The Blue Jays picked up nine first-place votes with the only other first-place vote going to Greenville College, who was picked second in the poll.

Westminster went 17-3 overall last season and had the first perfect run through the conference since 2007 by going 9-0. Despite winning three straight SLIAC Tournaments and sitting atop the preseason poll, the Blue Jays are not without some questions. They bring in new head coach Adam Galla and will be without 2015 SLIAC Player of the Year, Tripp Sheehan as well as their anchor along the backline, Daryl Doran. Even with those losses the roster is still full of talent including two-time First Team All-Conference goalie Raul Belman Romero. Romero finished with 50 saves and an 83-percent save percentage last season with a 0.68 goals-against average. Other returners include senior Drew Cook, who tied for the team lead with 12 goals last year, and senior Eli Sherman, who was third on the team in scoring with 19 points. Junior Tanner Touslee earned First Team All-Conference honors last year from his midfield position and will once again be counted on to man the middle of the field and control the ball. Last year the Blue Jays led the league in scoring with 82 goals and although they lost their leading scorer Sheehan, they welcome back a pair of dangerous attackers from injuries. Both Dustin Seibolt, the 2014 SLIAC Newcomer of the Year, and Drake Trease, a senior forward, missed a majority of time last year but will be fully healthy this fall. Newcomer Nick Moore, a defender, will have a chance to fill in along the backline.

Greenville College finished second in the poll, receiving 63 total points. The Panthers went 10-10 overall last season and 7-2 in SLIAC play. Head Coach Chris Swift returns 15 players including six starters from last year's team that made the conference tournament. Among those returners is First Team All-Conference performer Edgar Bueno. Bueno, a sophomore, was the Panthers' top playmaker, finishing with nine assists last year from his midfield position. Joining Bueno at the midfield spot are a pair of Third Team All-Conference performers in sophomore's Chad Juneau and Caleb Mulholland. The Panthers will have to replace the back end of their defense after losing defenders Richie Hershkowitz and Elliot Thompson and goalie Ian Hodge. A pair of newcomers in defender Max Finley and goalie Nick Holland could fill those departures.

Webster University picked up 60 total points in the poll to finish third. The Gorloks, led by Mike Siener on the sidelines, went 9-10-2 overall and 6-2-1 in the SLIAC last season with a young team. That young team found their way with experience, winning eight of their final 11 games and advancing to the conference tournament championship game. The Gorloks bring back 25 players and 8 starters from that team including All-Conference performers Zach Gyuricza and Drew Quisenberry. Gyuricza, a sophomore forward, led the Gorloks in scoring with nine goals and seven assists while Quisenberry, a sophomore midfielder, finished third in points with 14 and led the team with eight assists. Also back is sophomore goalie Alex Bergmann, who saw over 800 minutes of action in net; and senior midfielder Brendan Shields. Senior Jake Stowers will man the backline once again, starting all 21 games last season and ended the year by being named to the SLIAC All-Tournament team.

Spalding University was chosen fourth in the poll, receiving 59 total points. Under the direction of Adam Boyer, the Golden Eagles finished last season with a 9-9 overall record and a 6-3 mark in the conference. They return 14 players including 8 starters; highlighted by a pair of All-Conference performers in Abdullahi Abdullahi and Joey Lesher. Abdullahi, a senior forward, is a three-time All-Conference performer and led the team in scoring last year with seven goals and 17 points. Lesher, a senior midfielder who earned All-Conference honors in 2014, is expected to be fully healthy this fall after playing in only five games last year. Other key returners are juniors Austin Lanham and Sergio Olvera-Vancini. The Golden Eagles will have to find a replacement for Julio De Leon, a four-time All-Conference player, but will have a class of 19 freshmen to pull from including forward James Stock and midfielder Jacob Teasley.

Fontbonne University was picked fifth in the preseason poll, receiving 51 total points. The Griffins went 9-11 overall under first year head coach Ricky Andrews and will bring back 20 players as well as 8 starters. Headlining the returners is junior forward Alex Phillips who led the team in scoring with 12 goals including four game winners. Also back are seniors Matthew Key, a midfielder, and Alex Smith, a defender. Brendan Kopff, who started 19 of 20 games as a freshman last year and junior goalie Jordan Alberici, who finished with 72 saves in 15 starts in net, also return. Among newcomers to the Griffins expected to contribute will be Gregory Ferry, a sophomore defender; David Keeven, a junior midfielder; and Tyler Scales, a freshman forward.

Principia College finished sixth in the preseason poll with 43 total points. The Panthers went 4-9-1 overall and 4-4-1 in conference play last season. Head Coach Jess Semnacher brings back 12 players and 5 starters including junior midfielder Briggs Hurley. Hurley recorded four goals and four assists last year in earning Second Team All-Conference honors. Fellow junior, defender Akimie Oglivie is also back as is sophomore forward David McLeod-Warrick, who was second on the team with three goals. The Panthers bring in a group of freshmen who should see time on the field in Carson Hussey, Jose Lucero Mourad Sami, and Tyler Winterbottom.

Blackburn College picked up 35 total points for seventh place in the poll. The Beavers were 6-11-2 overall last year and 2-7 in the SLIAC. Seven starters return for head coach Rob Steinkuehler. The offense will run through senior midfielder Nate Kinnison, who tallied two goals and a team high nine assists last season. Also back are junior forwards Reed Gwillim and Lucas Rinderer as well as junior defenders Tommy Millburg and Brandon Smith. The Beavers will need to replace their leading scorer Mikey Stephenson and backline anchor Steven Njuba and will look to newcomers Jordan Allen, Pietro Lentini, and Bobby Nash to do so.

Eureka College received 31 total points to rank eighth in the poll. The Red Devils made big strides last year with a seven-win improvement, going 8-11 overall and finishing with their most conference wins since the 2009 season. After managing just eight goals two years ago the Red Devils netted 36 goals as a team last fall, thanks in large part to the duo of All-Conference players James Bowen (11 goals) and Brady Thomas (16 goals). The offense was not the only improvement for the Red Devils as junior goalie Daniel Johnson finished with a 75-percent save percentage, making 141 saves in over 1600 minutes of action and earning Third Team All-Conference honors. Head Coach Dwain Barker returns 12 players from last year's squad including eight starters and will mix in newcomers Brennan Hermacinski, Logan Hobbs, and Bryan Najera.

MacMurray College was picked ninth in the poll with 15 total points. The Highlanders, coached by John Mansholt, went 1-17 in his first season and return three starters from last year's squad. The Highlanders will be a young team that will look to returners Rudy Hernandez, Jacob Lee, and Jeremy Towns for their experience. Hernandez, a senior defender, made 16 starts on the backline last year while Lee, a junior midfielder, started 17 games. Towns, a senior forward, saw action in 13 games last fall. Among top newcomers will be freshman midfielder Aaron Lopez and seniors Drake Hardin and Luke Jarvis, standout baseball players for the Highlanders.

Iowa Wesleyan came in tenth on the preseason poll with 10 total points. The Tigers will be under the guidance of first year head coach Tony Odorisio. He takes over a team that went 4-16 overall last season. Youth was the name of the game last season for the Tigers and it will be so once again this year. The Tigers were led in scoring last season by a pair of freshmen, Josue Nicholas and Gabriel Torres, and featured just two juniors and no seniors on the squad. It has been a busy off-season for the new coach, bringing in numerous freshmen to fill out the roster and compete for playing time.

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