The TranSouth Conference coaches unanimously voted the Bethel Wildcats, NAIA National Champions in 2008 and the TranSouth regular-season champions in 09, as a favorite to capture the regular season crown again in 2010 in the league's preseason men's soccer poll.
This was the second straight season the Wildcats have been the coaches' preseason favorite to win. Bethel earned all eight of the coaches' first-place votes and tallied 80 points in the voting.
Martin Methodist, the 2009 TranSouth Conference Tournament champions and a national quarterfinalist, placed second in the voting with 71 points. Cumberland was third with 54 points. Lyon and Mid-Continent tied for fourth with 50 points apiece, Union was in sixth with 44 points, Trevecca Nazarene seventh with 43 points and FHU was eighth with 24 points.
The NAIA Top 25 is scheduled to be released today and can be found here.
|1. || Bethel University (8) || 80 |
|2.|| Martin Methodist|| 71|
|3.|| Cumberland|| 54|
|4.|| Lyon College|| 50|
| Mid-Continent|| 50|
|6.|| Union University|| 44|
|7.|| Trevecca Nazarene|| 43|
|8.|| Freed-Hardeman|| 24|
Bethel University Wildcat Soccer is coming off one of the more successful seasons in school history. The 2008 NAIA National Champions finished the 2009 regular season undefeated and were the TranSouth Men's Champions. The team dropped a tough decision to conference foe Martin Methodist in post season play and then after defeating Kansas Wesleyan University in the first round of the NAIA tournament, they bowed out with a loss to Simon Fraser in round two.
The 2010 squad will be one of the most experienced and deepest in school history.
The Wildcats lost only one senior from last year. Massimo Cullo-Marchese was an Honorable Mention All-American, and will be missed. Coach Melvin Belong will look to seniors, Felix Obilo, Armando Orozco, and Erick Rosas. Obilo and Orozco were All-Conference last year. Juniors, Mario Vila Boa and Joseph Omondi both look to continue their great play. Omondi was a First Team NAIA All-American Defender, while Mario Vila Boa was Conference Player of the Year. Junior Dawyne Smith was also TranSouth All-Conference.
The Cats play one of the toughest schedules in the nation. The schedule includes defending champions Lindsay Wilson and seven other Top 25 ranked teams.
Coach Belong will be in his fourth year as head coach at Bethel. He commented on the upcoming season, "We are returning three seniors and three juniors. We hope our experience translates into a successful season. We are excited about our newcomers and feel they will be a part of that success as well." Belong added, "Our expectation each year is to achieve the ultimate goal of winning the national title. We want to achieve team chemistry and energy. We hope to play attractive and result based soccer and approach each game like it is our last."
Martin Methodist's 2009 men's soccer team set the
bar high for the upcoming season, as the RedHawks earned a trip to their
first-ever NAIA Men's Soccer National Championship. Head Coach Paschal Dunne
guided MMC to the Elite Eight where the RedHawks fell to eventual National
Champion Lindsey Wilson.
Dunne, entering his 14th year as Martin Methodist's head coach, will look to again restore the men's soccer program in the national ranks in 2010.
The RedHawks were not the favored TranSouth Champions in 2009, but defeated defending NAIA National Champion and NAIA No. 1 Bethel University for the title after putting together a 5-1-1 record in the TranSouth Athletic Conference.
Despite losing four to graduation after the 2009 season, the RedHawks will return key players in their 2010 quest. Junior Joseph Beecroft was a 2009 NAIA All-American and a member of the TranSouth All-Conference first team, and will continue to patrol the backfield for MMC. All-Conference selection forward Andrew Gordon also returns to the squad, with seniors Chris McBride and James Coleman expected by Dunne to develop into key components for the RedHawks.
Fourth-year Cumberland head coach Jeff Loucks lost seven starters and nine seniors from last year's club that finished 3-3-1 in the TranSouth, but the club returns essentially five starters, including 2008 First Team All-TSAC midfielder Kempess Villafana, who missed all of 2009 after suffering a knee injury last July.
"We are counting on a bunch of kids to step up and fulfill expectations, whether those are returning players who will have to play a bigger role or newcomers," Loucks said. "We lost nine seniors, who all graduated in May, so there are some big shoes to fill for everyone on our club."
The Bulldog defense must be completely rebuilt after graduating five seniors, including keeper Michael Michailidis and defenders Adam Owczarzak, Yue Wang, Devon Ternent and Nguyen Nguyen.
"We lost the entire backline and keeper but have brought in four new defenders along with Zack Batty, who has gained experience over the last two seasons. But it will be a young group who hasn't played together as we head into the season.
"Gubby John-Williams, a senior, and sophomore Matthew Shattuck will battle for the No. 1 goalie spot," Loucks said. "Gubby has match experience and Matthew played in one game last season, so there will be a lot of competition for that job as we head into the year."
The backbone of this year's club should come in the midfield, where Villafana returns along with last year's starters Neil Howard, Bradley Williams and Robert Boyd. Villafana scored eight goals with three assists in 2008, while Howard, Williams and Boyd combined for only three goals but 11 assists last season.
"We hope one of our newcomers, Harry Mason, will help with our goal-scoring woes from a year ago, when we netted just 18," Loucks said. "We are looking for contributions from a number of newcomers, and their good play should provide us with some depth."
Cumberland has also upgraded its schedule for 2010, adding the likes of Lindenwood University and Harris Stowe along with the challenging conference slate that includes perennial powers Bethel University and Martin Methodist.
The fortunes of the 2010 Lyon College Scots men's soccer team are tied to an transfusion of fresh blood on the pitch this season. Twenty-three players have a season or less of individual experience at the colligate level, but second-year Scots' Head Coach Brett Parker hopes that his upperclassmen can set an example for the youngsters and speed the seasoning process along.
Last season, the Scots finished with a school-record 10 wins against six losses and one tie, but with the departure of three of its top four point producers (Gabriel LeBlanc, Greg Buford and All-Conference forward Stephen Dallas) and the loss of a two-time All-Conference keeper in Matt Callaway to graduation, not to mention ten freshmen and 13 sophomores on the roster, the Scots will have to grow up fast to match or exceed that school-record victory total
"Sure, we're a bit of an unknown," said Parker, "because of our large number of underclassmen. But our expectations are to build on our success the past few seasons and continue to push towards becoming an NAIA Top 25 program and TranSouth championship contender."
Lyon returns six starters combined on defense and in the midfield - Robert Hall, Kevin Solomon, Gueorgui Tchamkoriyski, Liam George and A.C. Tortorich - and those players could help the Scots take the first steps toward accomplishing those aforementioned goals in 2010.
Among his crop of newcomers, Parker is especially excited about Western Texas transfers Igor Pavlovic (Prokupjle, Serbia), a defender, and forward/midfielder Bill Jefferies (Kalundborg, Denmark).
The regular season kicks off for the Scots at home on Aug. 29, with a match against Spring Hill College.