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College Soccer News 2017 Preseason National Poll

It is a challenge to predict how teams will fare at the beginning of the season but you have to start somewhere. It is a given that preseason polls are simply a starting point. There are a lot of unknowns including how teams will adjust to departures, the growth of returning players, the impact that newcomers will have, and the inevitable injuries that may occur throughout the season. College Soccer News’ preseason poll is based on a combination of factors including performance the past season, returning talent, returning experience, depth, the gaps that have to be plugged, the potential impact of recruiting classes, and intangibles like leadership, team chemistry, and toughness. You can count on there being a significant difference between preseason and season ending polls since there are always teams that under and over achieve. .   



A three-peat does not often happen but it is not out of the question for a team that returns the experience, talent, and has the depth that Stanford will have entering the 2017 season. Foster Langsdorf (15g, 2a) and Corey Baird (3a, 6a) work as well together up-top as any duo in the country. Drew Skundrich (4g, 3a) will set the pace in the midfield. Thomas Hilliard-Arce (4g, 2a) will anchor the backline. Replacing Andrew Epstein in goal looks to be the most significant gap to fill. 

Wake Forest 

The Demon Deacons have won a total of thirty-six contests over the past two seasons. They enter the 2017 season with the challenge of replacing All-America midfielders Jacori Hayes and Ian Harkes and goalkeeper Alec Ferrell. Regardless sufficient talent returns including senior forward Jon Bakero (7g, 4a), sophmore midfielder Ema Twumasi (6g, 4a), junior defensive midfielder Brad Dunwell and senior back Kevin Politz supplemented by one of the best recruiting classes in the country to keep Wake Forest in the national championship conversation. 


The Terps played as well as any team in the country last year with the exception of a disastrous twenty minute span that enabled Providence to top them in the NCAA Tournament. Maryland will be as explosive on the offensive side of the ball with a multi-dimensional attack led by Gordon Wild (17g, 5a). However they have some reloading to do on the defensive side of the ball. Resolve that and the Terps will be very difficult to top. 


The Pioneers are 35-2-6 over the past two seasons. No reason to believe there will be a drop off in 2017. Denver returns three of their top-four goal scores including redshirt senior Blake Elder (7g, 2a), junior Andre Shinyashiki (9g, 5a) and senior midfielder Alex Underwood (5g, 5a). Denver has big shoes to fill on the defensive side of the ball due to the departure of backs Reagan Dunk and Kortne Ford and defensive midfielder Sam Hamilton (0g, 9a). However a solid foundation exists upon which to reload led by goalkeeper Nick Gardner.   

North Carolina 

The Tar Heels have been a top ten team during eight of the past ten seasons. Carlos Somoano will once again have plenty of talent to work with. Forwards Zach Wright (5g, 7a), Nils Bruening (8g, 1a) and Alan Winn (3g, 4a), and midfielders Cam Lindley (0g, 7a) and Drew Murphy are among what should be a potent and balanced Tar Heel attack. Redshirt junior goalkeeper James Pyle returns to anchor a defense that allowed a total of only nine goals last year. UNC will play their home games off campus away from the friendly confines of Fetzer Field in 2017 due to the renovations taking place to the stadium.


Clemson will be formdable down the spine with Ximo Miralles in goal, Patrick Bunk-Anderson and Malik Mbaye in the back, Oliver Shannon in the midfield and Diego Campos up-top. Campos (6g, 4a) was Clemson’s top goal scorer last year. However, three of Clemson’s top four goals scorers last year have departed which means that others will need to emerge to add balance to the Tiger attack. The midfield should be very good and the defense solid ancored by Miralles who had a 0.72 goals against average last year with ten shutouts.  


Senior forward Mohamed Thiaw (12g, 2a),  junior forward Tate Schmitt (5g, 2a), senior midfielder Geoffrey Dee (2g, 4a) and senior back Tim Kubel (3g, 11a) are among a talented group of players who Ken Lolla will no doubt mold into a very competitive team. The biggest challenge facing Lolla may be replacing graduate student Stefan Cleveland in goal who had only one year of eligibility remaining after transferring in last year after three seasons at Dartmouth. 

Virginia Tech

The ACC teams will beat each other up in conference play which will take a toll on their win-loss record but there is no need to conclude that the Hokies who had a breakout season last year will be the victim of that. Nine starters are slated to return from the 2016 team that advanced to the Elite Eight including forward Marcelo Acuna who transferred in and ignited Virginia Tech’s attack with eleven goals. Senior Ben Lundgaard who has been the starter between the pipes for the past three seasons will anchor what should be a very solid Hokie defense.  


The graduation of  All-American Julian Gressel (15g, 6a) creates a big void but Providence has enough returning pieces including nine starters to warrant a high national ranking. Opportunity knocks early for the Friars who will open the season on the road with contests against highly regarded North Carolina and Wake Forest. Sophomore midfielder Danny Griffin (7g, 1a) looks to be among returning players who will be due for a bigger role on the offensive side of the ball. The return of redshirt senior forward Mac Steeves who found the back of the net thirteen times in 2015 but missed the 2016 campaign due to injury is a huge plus. Redshirt senior back Mark Jecewiz will anchor the defense along with redshirt junior Colin Miller who was the 2016 Big East Goalkeeepr of the Year. 


Eight starters return from the 2016 team that was 11-4-5 and advanced to the third round of the NCAA Touranment. The Cavaliers have added a top ten recruiting class that includes impact junior transfers defender Prosper Figbee who was the 2016 American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year and forward Cameron Harr who was the 2016 MAAC Offensive Player of the Year. Forward Edward Opoku (6g, 2a) and midfielder Pablo Aguilar (7g, 2a) return to led the offense. Junior Jean-Christophe Koffi is among a talented group of midfielders. Junior center back Sergi Nus and senior goalkeepr Jeff Caldwell are part of what looks to be a very tenacious Cavalier defense. If everything falls into place Virginia is going to be very tough to top. 


Six starters are slated to return supplemented by one of the top recruiting classes. The Hoosiers will be talented once again. They played well and accomplished a lot during the spring season but the big unanswered question remains offensive punch. It is not clear who will step forward into the spotlight in 2017 and replace the playing ability provided last year by midfielder Tanner Thompson (8g, 3a). Midfielder Trevor Swartz (5g, 3a) is the top retuning goal scorer from the 2016 team. One of the newcomers could prove to be the X-Factor in terms of offensive productivity. IU will have a new face in goal but the backline looks to be very good with Grant Lillard, Andrew Gutman and Timmy Mehl returning and Jordan Kleyn stepping up to assume a starting role.   



Ian McIntyre enters his seventh season at Syracuse facing the challenge of replacing a very talented senior class from the 2016 squad that was awarded the number eight seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Orange will be young with a roster that includes fifteen newcomers and thirteen returning players. Regardless, there is no shortage of talent and McIntyre has shown the ability in the past to handle such situations very effectively. Forward Johannes Pieles and midfielder Jonathan Hagman look to be among the key returning players on the offensive side of the ball. Sophomore Mo Adams who had a banner freshman season returns to set the pace in the midfield. Junior Kamal Miller looks to be the key guy in a backline that requires signficant reloading. Junior Hendrik Hilpert who has been the starter the past two seasons returns to give Syracuse a very talented and composed presence in goal. 


The Huskies return seven staters from the 2016 team that was 14-7-0 overall, had several high profile wins, and advanced to the third round of the NCAA Tournament. Jamie Clark enters his seventh season at the helm of the Washington program in 2017 facing several departures due to graduation as well as the decision of midfielder Henry Wingo and goalkeeper Auden Schilder to depart early to enter the professional ranks. Midfieder Handwalla Bwana (4g, 7a) who had a stellar freshman season and forwards Kyle Coffee (3g, 2a) and Elijah Rice (2g, 1a) are among returning players who should power the attack. Junior defender Quentin Pearson (1g, 0a), and seniors Justin Fiddes (0g, 1a) and Garret Jackson (3g, 0a) provide a solid foundation upon which to build the defense.  


Creighton returns eight starters but they must replace Alex Kapp in goal and the offensive productivity provided by forward Riggs Lennon (10g, 0a) and midfielders Ricardo Perez (4g, 5a) and Myles Englis (7g, 2a). Senior forward Ricky Lopez-Espin (10g, 2a) and junior midfielder Joel Rydstrand (3g, 7a) look to be key returning contributors to the attack. Senior Lucas Stauffer and redshirt junior Mitch LaGro are among a very capable group of returning defenders. Replacing Kapp in goal looks to be a critical success factor right out of the gate as Creighton’s early season dance card is very competitive with a season opening contest at home with Virginia Tech and subsequent games on the road with Stanford and Big East foe Butler. 


The Eagles are in transition with Jesse Cormier who was formerly the head coach at Vermont for thirteen seasons taking over the head coaching job from Bob Butehorn who resigned after ten seasons to become the head coach at South Florida. Cormier takes over a program that returns ten starters from the 2016 team that was 14-4-3 overall and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. FGCU led the nation last year in offensive productivity scoring a total of sixty-two goals. Senior All-American forward Albert Ruiz (22g, 5a) and redshirt junior forward Arion Sobers-Assue (11g, 11a) return to power what should again be an explosive attack. Senior back Nicolas Samayoa and sophomore goalkeeper Jared Brown are among returning defenders. The opportunity for improvment exists on the defensive side of the ball as relected in the fact the Eagles allowed thirty-three goals in 2016.  


Seven starters return from the 2016 team that won the Conference USA regular season title and received the number ten seed in the NCAA Tourney. The 49ers have several key gaps to plug due to graduation including midfielders Brandt Bronico and Maxi Rodriguez and defenders Matej Dekovic and Luke Waechter. Kevin Langan has done a good job of plugging the gaps in the past so chances are pretty good that Charlotte will again be extremelly competitive in 2017. The 49ers looked capable of making a deep run in the NCAA Tourney last year before they were upset at home by Virginia Tech. Forwards Daniel Bruce (6g,2a), Marco Sunol-Rojas (4g, 4a) and Zhuvonte Wilson (2g, 3a) return to add punch to attack. RS sophomore goalkeeper Elliot Panico and backs Callum Montgomery and Sean Bowman add stability to the defense. 

Notre Dame

All-American forwad Jon Gallagher (14g, 7a) who is among the top finishers in the country returns along with senior Jeffrey Farina (1g, 7a). They combine to give the Irish a formidable one-two punch up-top. Senior Blake Townes (1g, 5a) and junior Thomas Ueland (2g, 1a) and sophomores Tommy McCabe (0g, 1a) and Jack Casey (1g, 3a) are among key returning linkmen. The Irish have big shoes to fill in the back due to the graduation of center back Brandon Aubrey. Fifth-year center back Matt Habrowski and fifth-year senior netminder Chris Hubbard will set the pace on the defensive side of the ball and provide a very solid necleus upon which Bobby Clark will build.   


Akron is one of only five programs to have earned a berth in the NCAA Tournament for the last ten seasons. The Zips have traditionally had a multi-dimensional and explose offense. Seniors Stuart Holthusen (7g 1a) and Sam Gainford (4g, 3a) and junior Ezana Kahsay are among the forwards who will be called upon to fill the void that exists in that department in 2017 due to the departure of Adam Najem (5g, 5a) and Jonathan Lewis (2g, 12a). A solid contingent of capable midfielders return led by senior Pau Belana. Junior Ben Lundt will give the Zips a solid and experienced presence in goal. The backline will require some reloading due to graduation.  


The Great Danes flew under the radar for most of the 2016 season. That will not be the case in 2017 with eight starters back from the 2016 team that won the America East Conference Tournament, had signature wins over Syracuse and Boston College, and earned the program’s first ever invite to NCAA Tournament. Senior Afonso Pinheiro (13, 5a) the 2016 America East Striker of the Year returns to power the attack along with junior forward Nico Solabarrieta (7g, 7a) and junior midfielder Carlos Clark (5g, 7a). Trevor Gormon has several voids to fill on the defensive side of the ball due to graduation.   


Nine starters are slated to return from the 2016 team that won the Big East Tournament and the number fifteen seed in the NCAA Tourney. Butler will find out what life is like without All-American forward David Goldsmith who finished a stellar career with forty-one career goals. Sophomores Lewis Suddick (11g, 4a) and Isaac Galliford (4g, 6a), juniors Jared Timmer (2g, 9a) and Marco Charalambous (3g, 3a) and senior Eric Leonard (2g, 2a) provide offensive firepower. RS senior Eric Dick who has three years of starting experience will anchor the defense. 


Mario Sanchez enters his third season at SIUE at the helm of of a program that looks to be gaining momentum. Last year the Cougars won the the MVC Tournament, recorded a fourteen game winning streak, and advanced to the Sweet Sixteen in the NCAA Tournament. SIUE will move from the MVC to the MAC in 2017 with a solid core of returning players but some gaps to plug on the defensive side of the ball. The good news in that regard is that senior Kyle Dal Santo returns in goal to anchor the defense. Senior Devyn Jamba (6g, 3a) and sophomore Lachlan McLean (3g, 2a) return up-top. A solid necleus returns in the midfield including senior Gabe Christianson, redshirt junior Keegan McHugh (1g, 4a), and junior Greg Solawa (1g, 3a).  .  


Loyola Chicago

The Ramblers had a breakthrough season last year in which they recorded fourteen wins and earned a berth in the NCAA Tournament. Loyola Chicago will enter the 2017 season with a bevy of playmakers but they will be reloading on the defensive side of the ball. Players who netted seventy-five percent of the goals the Ramblers scored last year return including senior Elliot Collier (5g, 2a) and juniors Alec Lasinski (7g, 4a), Connor Stevenson (3g, 1a) and Fabian Lifka (2g, 2a). Redshirt junior All-American Grant Stoneman and sophomore Marius Kullmann (1g, 2a) are among returning defenders.  

Michigan State  

The Spartans return nine starters from the 2016 team that was 13-5-2 overall and earned an at-large berth into the NCAA Tourney. Junior forward Ryan Sierakowski (9g, 5a), sophomore midfielder Giuseppe Barone (3g, 4a) and senior Ken Krolicki (3g, 4a) are among the returning players that Damon Rensing will look to for offensive punch. Redshirt goalkeepr Jimmy Hague and senior back Brad Centala are among those who will add stability to the Michigan State defense.  The DeMartin Soccer Complex will sport lights in 2017 which will enable the Spartans to host five night games for the first time in the history of the program.  


The Pilots won the WCC Conference Title in 2016 for the first time since 2008 and returned the the NCAA Tournament field for the first time since 2009. Portland will no doubt miss midfielder Eddie Sanchez who was a four-time WCC First Team selection. Sophomore forward Benji Michel (10g, 4a) is an impact player who should build on a banner freshman campaign. The midfield looks to be sure footed and deep. Key returning defenders include senior Kris Reaves and junior Lionell Mills and netminder Paul Christensen who was the 2016 WCC Goalkeeper of the Year. Nick Carlin-Voigt has added a recruiting class that includes several players with the potential to contribute immediately. 


The top four goal scorers including senior forwards Chris Mueller (8g, 11a) and Tom Barlow (5g, 4a) from the 2016 team are slated to return. Seniors Mike Catalano (4g, 2a) and Mark Segbers (3g, 6a) should set the pace in the midfield. Three of the four starting defenders along with senior goalkeeper Philipp Schilling who had a 0.72 goals against average return. The Badgers are deep and talented across the board with a good mix of quickness, size, and experience.  

New Mexico

The Lobos finished strong last year topping Kentucky, Charlotte and FIU to win the CUSA Tournament for the first time in the history of the program to earn another berth in the NCAA Tournament. New Mexico must replace four year starters Niko Hansen (13g, 3a) and Chris Wehan (8g, 3a) who accounted for twenty-one of the thirty-four goals the Lobos scored last year. Seniors Sam Gleadle (1g, 5a) and Luke Lawrence (3g, 0a) are among returning forwards. Jason Beaulieu returns in goal with three years of starting experience under his belt. Junior Aaron Herrera (2g, 2a) and sophomores Tom Smart (0g, 2a) and Matthew Constant are among returning backs. Several inexperienced players will be in the starting lineup but the impact of that could be mitigated by several of the redshirt freshmen.  

Coastal Carolina   

The 2016 season was a transition year for Coastal Carolina who began play in the Sun Belt Conference and the challenge of more reloading than they normally face. The Chanticleers improved as the season progressed and won the Sun Belt Championship to punch their ticket to the NCAA Tourney for the fourteenth time. Last year the normally prolific Coastal Carolina attack produced a total of only twenty-two goals. The offense looks primed for improvement in 2017 with the return of senior forward Frantzdy Pierrot (8g, 5a) and senior midfielder Martin Melchor (5g, 5a) and the addition of a talented group of newcomers that includes junior transfer Yazeed Matthews who was named the NJCAA National Player of the Year at Tyler Junior College. Senior Braulio Linares-Ortiz returns in goal to anchor a defense that has the potential to be very tenacious.  

UMass Lowell 

A good case can be made that the River Hawks warrant a higher ranking heading into the 2017 season based on their 13-1-2 overall record last year and first place regular season finish in the America East. The potential clearly exists for Christian Figueroa’s squad to move upward in the rankings. However, UMass Lowell must overcome several key departures including All-American Wuilito Fernandez (11g, 5a), midfielder Carlos Ruiz (3g, 3a) and defender Eric Martin among others. Key returning players include senior goalkeeper Austin Kroll, redshirt sophomore forward Ivan Abramovic (9g, 6a), junior midfielder Jakov Basic (0g, 1a) and sophomore defender Ivan Blaskic.    


Junior forward Abdou Mbacke Thiam (10g, 4a) who has been Connecticut’s top goal scorer for the past two seasons returns to power the attack. He will be a tightly marked man so the emergence of others to add an additional dimension to the Huskie attack will be a critical success factor for UConn in 2017. Connecticut has a huge gap to plug due to the departure of midfielder Kwame Awuah (2g, 7a) who was a four-year starter and key playmaker. Seniors Cheikh Stephane Coly (0g, 2a) and Andrew Geres (3g, 3a) and sophomores Niko Petridis (1g, 2a) and Munir Saleh (0g, 1a) are among a solid group of returning linkmen. Redshirt junior Dylan Greenberg (1g, 0a) and junior Jacob Hauser-Ramsey are among key returning backs. Redshirt senior Scott Levene who has been the starter for the past two seasons returns between the pipes. 


It’s unlikely that anyone will look past the Tigers in 2017 after a breakout 2016 season during which they were 13-4-2 overall with several signature wins and the program’s first berth in the NCAA Tournament. Ryan Jordan will have nine returning starters to work with. The biggest shoes to fill are those of playmaker Julio Cervantes (9g, 3a). Senior forward Tristan Blackmon (4g, 5a), sophomore forward Anthony Orendain (3g, 3a), and junior midfielder Camden Riley (4g, 3a) are among returning starters who should add pop to the attack. Senior Andres Ochoa (0g, 4a) who has been a starter for three seasons will set the pace in the midfield. Senior goalkeeper Curtis Goldsmith and junior back Wouter Verstraaten are part of what looks to be a solid defense. 
Others Receiving Votes:  UCLA, South Carolina, Boston College, Dartmouth, Mercer, Utah Valley, Kentucky, San Diego State, Furman, Radford

Posted in CSN Preseason Top 30 Poll

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