Coming off a season in which they went undefeated in conference play, the Webster University men's soccer team is the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SLIAC) coaches preseason favorites in 2018. The Gorloks went 7-0-2 in the SLIAC and return 22 players, including 10 starters, as they picked up 68 points and three first-place votes in the poll. Head Coach Mike Siener saw his young team take a big step last season, recording the program's fourth undefeated conference schedule. The Gorloks strength last year was their defense, allowing just 20 goals all season, led by SLIAC Co-Defensive Player of the Year Justin Schmidt. Schmidt, a junior, earned All-Region honors after anchoring the Gorlok defense while contributing one goal and one assist. Fellow All-Conference defender Ryan Gonzalez also returns to partner up with Schmidt. All-Conference midfielders Edin Mehmedovic and Hunter Olaso will be in charge of controlling play. In net, the Gorloks bring back Matt Amick, who played in eight games last season while holding a .821 save percentage. Transfer forward Chris Clay could add to the Gorloks scoring punch.
Five-time defending SLIAC Tournament Champion Westminster College was picked 2nd in the poll with 64 points, receiving three first-place votes. The Blue Jays became the first #4 seed to win the tournament since 2006 and return seven starters and 20 players from last year's club. Despite the group of experienced players returning, head coach Adam Galla will have a young club with 26 of 32 players either a freshman or sophomore. Heading up the returning players is sophomore forward Patrick Wisnewski. Wisnewski recorded five goals and five assists while earning First Team All-Conference honors last year. The defense will be anchored by sophomore Josh Udinyiwe, who started 18 of 20 games last season as a true freshman. The last line of defense will be SLIAC Tournament MVP Connor Bandre, a junior, who tallied a 74-percent save percentage in seven starts last season. Among the newcomers that should see time is Sam Heckart and Colin Walsh.
Fontbonne University tied for second in the poll with 64 points and grabbed one first-place vote. The Griffins were 13-5-1 overall last season and won the program's first outright regular-season conference title since 2008 with an 8-1 SLIAC mark. Head Coach Donnie Alberty brings back seven starters, although they will have to replace a pair of First Team All-Conference players in Greg Ferry and Corey Schmidt. Among those coming back are their top two scorers from last year; Blake Smugala and Nick Wolf. Smugala, a senior midfielder, finished with 6 goals and 4 assists while Wolf, a senior forward, led the team with 7 goals. Junior defender Nick Nelson started all 19 games last season and will be looked to step in as the defensive leader. Freshmen Bryan Carrol and Zach Lyeki will push for playing time.
After qualifying for the conference tournament for the first time since 2010 Principia College is anticipated for a return trip, coming in 4th in the poll with 63 points and one first-place vote. Panthers head coach Jess Semnacher will rely on a group of experienced players to help support the 2017 SLIAC Offensive Player and Newcomer of the Year Kaleb Keller. Keller, a sophomore, exploded for 18 goals and 2 assists last season; earning All-Region honors. Juniors Kaden Keller and George Agai will provide offensive support while David McCook and David McLeod-Warrick will lead the defense. Heading up a large incoming class of freshmen will be Seth Arens, Caleb Grow, and Cole Heinbaugh.
Iowa Wesleyan University received 54 points, notching the last first-place vote from the coaches, to finish 5th in the poll. The Tigers had their most successful season since joining the league, going 10-7-2 overall and 6-2-1 in SLIAC play. This marks the first year the school will be eligible for postseason play after making the move to Division III and the team will have that goal in mind. Head Coach Tony Odorisio returns 35 players and six starters from last year's team but will have to replace a trio of All-Conference players. Pablo Garcia, a sophomore, tied for the team lead with 16 points last year and will be counted on to once again lead the attack. Fabian Arvizu Sanchez (7 goals) and Juan David Crespo add to the scoring punch. The defense will be led by sophomore Gonzalo Rubio, who received a Third Team All-Conference nod last season. Newcomers Hugo Bonilla and Favio Govea Silva could play a role on the team.
Spalding University came in 6th in the poll with 49 total points. Coach Adam Boyer returns seven starters including one of the league's top attackers in Kornell Hilliard. Hilliard tallied 15 goals and 7 assists last season, earning All-Conference and All-Region honors. Sophomore forwards Trustun Ashburn (8 goals) and Mirza Ugarak (6 goals) are also options in the attack. Spalding also returns captains Tenko Kono, a midfielder, and Finn Kola, a defender. A large class of 20 newcomers joins the Golden Eagles. Transfer Jude Louis will battle for the starting spot in net while freshmen Abdirahman Bakari and Asher Benge will look to contribute in their first year.
After finishing 8-11 overall last season Greenville University was picked 7th in the poll with 37 points. The Panthers return 27 players and nine starters from last year's team while incorporating a strong recruiting class. Coach Chris Swift will have to replace the unexpected loss of leading scorer and All-Conference player Caleb Carpenter but has a couple of options with Edgar Bueno and Adam Jones. Bueno, a senior, recorded 4 goals and 7 assists last season and has been one of the top set-up men since arriving three years ago, totaling 17 career assists. All-Conference senior defender Charlie Dalton added three goals last year. The list of incoming players that will look to make their names known are headed up by Adrean Love, Jared McPeek, and Cameron Whitehead.
Blackburn College finished 8th in the poll with 25 points. Rob Steinkuehler guided the Beavers to a 6-11-1 overall record last year, winning three conference matches. The Beavers return four starters and 13 players with Third Team All-Conference performer Jordan Allen leading the way. Allen, a junior, finished with 8 goals and 3 assists last season while netting three game-winning goals. Midfielder Alex Escamilla (4 goals, 2 assists) will help on offense as will James Kiwanuka. Steven Cowles will anchor the Beaver backline while Alex Hammerlinck returns in net after making 89 saves in nearly 1600 minutes of action last year. Jack McGrath and Zach Wieland will be expected to make an impact for the team as true freshmen.
MacMurray College received 14 points in the poll, placing 9th. The Highlanders are coached by John Mansholt and return eight starters. The program lost just two players due to graduation and will be looking at their group of experienced players to carry them this season. Among the returning players are midfielders Evan Bolwerk and Omar Martinez. Josh Hamlin returns to guide the defense while goalie Jacob Trimm is back after a freshman season in which he recorded 52 saves and a 71-percent save percentage. Newcomer Alejandro Bueso is a forward that could provide some scoring punch.
Eureka College picked up 12 points for 10th place in the poll. Head coach Dwain Barker returns nine starters from last year's team that recorded two wins. The offense will revolve around senior James Bowen (2 goals, 2 assists) and junior Michael Hansen (4 goals). Cristian Marin Michael will play the middle while defenders Daniel Behm and Tim Johnson will lead the defense. Newcomers include Moises Aldana, Logan Hobbs, and Kenneth Mandell.
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