One year after a historic season Spalding University is the favorite in the 2017 St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Preseason Men's Soccer Coaches Poll. Spalding captured six of the ten first-place votes in the preseason poll, amassing 78 total points and edging out Westminster College for the top spot.
Spalding was 12-7 overall last season, going undefeated in conference play with a 9-0 record on their way to capturing the program's first ever SLIAC regular season title. Head Coach Adam Boyer returns 15 players and seven starters from last year's team that led all teams in goals during conference play while also leading the conference in shutouts.The Golden Eagles will have to overcome the loss of both the SLIAC Offensive Player of the Year (Osman Hussein) and the SLIAC Defensive Player of the Year (Joey Lesher) but will have a solid group of five seniors to step up on the field. The experienced senior class, which includes co-captains, midfielders Austin Lanham and Sergio Olvera-Vancini, will be helped by a talented class of sophomores that includes Kornell Hillard, Finn Kola, and Jacob Teasley. Hillard was second on the team in scoring last year with 11 goals and six assists while Teasley added five goals and four assists. Kola, a defender, started every game but one for the Golden Eagles as a true freshman.
Westminster received 75 total points and three first-place votes for second place in the poll. The Blue Jays have won a conference record five straight SLIAC Tournament titles and finished last year with a 15-4-1 overall record, going 7-1-1 in conference play. Head Coach Adam Galla brings back 14 players and eight starters. Heading up the list of returners is a strong senior class that has been a part of the program's recent run of success. Senior goal keeper Raul Belman is back and will be looking to stay healthy this season after missing all of last season. Blake Hausman and Cooper Smith started every game they played last year while helping the team record five shutouts. Also returning are midfielder Daniel Barone (5 goals and 5 assists) and forward Dustin Seibolt (8 goals) who will be looked on to offset the loss of Drake Trease, who led the conference in goals and total points last season. The Blue Jays are bringing in a large class that includes 19 freshmen and two transfers. Among those newcomers expected to see time on the pitch are Justin Gerdiman, his high school's all-time leading scorer, and Cade Rowlette, an All-District performer in high school.
Webster University was selected third, receiving 60 total points and the remaining first-place vote. The Gorloks were 8-10 overall last season under head coach Mike Siener and return 16 players. Despite returning just five starters the Gorloks will have a strong core to build around with three of the returning players earning All-Conference honors last season. Senior midfielder Dino Music earned Second Team All-Conference honors after tallying one goal and three assists last season. A trio of sophomores are back after standout freshmen seasons: Kyle Hertel, Juan Garcia, and Justin Schmidt. Hertel took the reigns in net for the Gorloks last season, earning First Team All-Conference honors after holding a 1.67 goals-against average while making 35 saves. Schmidt, a defender, picked up Second Team All-Conference honors last year after starting all 17 games as a true freshman. Garcia, a midfielder, and Tucker Hively, a defender, both gained experience last year as true freshmen and will be counted on to expand their roles this season.
Fontbonne University received 59 total points in the poll and will be led by first-year head coach Donnie Alberty. The Griffins were 8-11-1 overall last season, going 7-2 in conference play. They return a strong team with 23 players back including seven starters, although they will have to overcome the loss of a pair of First Team All-Conference players in Alex Smith and Austin Willenbrock. The Griffins were a balanced team last year with no one scoring more than five goals but the team still ranking third in the conference in goals scored. Midfielders Cory Schmidt (5 goals) and Nick Wolf (3 goals) will be counted on to provide the attack once again this year while Tony Pitaro returns in net after garnering Third Team All-Conference honors. Among the newcomers to the Griffins will be freshman forward Charlie Gibbs and junior midfielder Blake Smugala.
Greenville University received 50 total points for fifth place in the poll. The Panthers were 6-8-5 last season, going 3-3-3 in conference play. After being picked second in the preseason poll last year the Panthers will be looking to be more like the team that went 7-2 in conference play in 2015. Head Coach Chris Swift brings back nine starters including junior midfielder Edgar Bueno, a two-time First Team All-Conference performer who led the team in scoring last year with 15 points. Also back is junior defender Charlie Dalton, who picked up an All-Conference nod last year. Newcomers expected to play key roles for the team are forwards Caleb Carpenter and Adam Jones.
Principia College was chosen sixth in the poll with 38 total points. Principia was 5-12 last season and head coach Jess Semnacher will have plenty of experience to turn lean on as they bring back 18 players including eight starters. The Panthers will need to improve their attack this season, after netting just 22 goals last year but have their top three scorers returning. Among those that could take a step forward is senior Briggs Hurley, who led the team with 12 points including a conference high eight assists. Carson Hussey and Gabriel Theodoro, both sophomores, tied for the team lead in goals with four. Senior Alphonce Baraza will anchor the backline for the Panthers while sophomore David McCook is also returning to the squad. Among newcomers for the Panthers are George Agai, Gastavas Balukake, and Mitchell Gill.
Blackburn College finished seventh in the poll with 36 total points. The Beavers return nine players and seven starters from last year's team that went 6-9-3 overall and 3-5-1 in conference play. Head Coach Rob Steinkuehler will have to replace All-Conference defender Nate Kinnison but return three of their top five scorers from last year. Heading up the list of returners is senior forward Reed Gwillim who recorded four goals and two assists with a team high three game winning goals. Also back is senior forward Lucas Rinderer, who tied for the team lead with five goals last fall. Sophomore midfielder Jordan Allen tallied two goals and two assists in his first collegiate season and will be looked to add to the attack this year. Defensively the Beavers will be led by a pair of sophomores in Steven Cowles and Brandon Smith. The pair combined to start 31 games as true freshmen last season. Among newcomers, Darien Jackson, Drake Jackson, and Luke Sims should see time on the field.
Iowa Wesleyan University picked up 25 total points in the poll and will be looking to increase their win total for a third straight year. The Tigers went 5-14-1 overall last season, picking up a pair of conference wins. Head Coach Tony Odorisio brings back 18 players and nine starters from last fall, but one of the starting spots is opened up by the departure of the team's lone All-Conference player from last year, Jonathon Armador. The Tigers will turn to a group of seniors to guide the team: Harben Branco Filho, Jorge Siera Galeas, Maxwell Trautman, and Tevin Yen. Filho and Galeas combined for 38 starts on the backline for the Tigers. Trautman and Yen both tallied two goals and an assist during the 2016 year. Sophomore Juan Crespo also returns after compiling one goal and three assists last year. Newcomers Bryan Bonilla and Richard Neeves will factor into the lineup.
Eureka College picked up 19 total points for ninth place in the poll. The Red Devils are coached by Dwain Barker and finished last year with a 7-9-2 overall record and a 2-6-1 mark in the SLIAC. The Red Devils took a big jump last year, finishing with the second most wins in a season in program history. They return 14 players and seven starters from last year's squad, including the team's top three scorers. Junior James Bowen led the conference in total goals last season with 14 and will be counted to be a threat in conference play. Senior Brady Thomas was second on the team with 12 points last season and will team with sophomore Michael Hansen at the top of the formation for the Red Devils. The Red Devils are experienced in net with their top two keepers from last year also returning. Daniel Johnson (1.76 goals-against average) and Hector Varela (54 saves) will again split time.
MacMurray College finished with 10 points in the poll. The Highlanders finished 3-12-2 overall last season in head coach John Mansholt's first year. They return nine players and five starters. Among those returning to the field for the Highlanders are defenders Braedyn Ayers and Josh Hamlin. Midfielders Jacob Farr and Omar Martinez will be looked to provide some scoring punch for the team. The incoming class for the Highlanders includes a trio of freshmen; midfielder Edgar Castillo, defender Spencer Hein, and goalkeeper Muamer Kermo.
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