INDIANAPOLIS -- The Milwaukee men’s soccer team, the defending Horizon League tournament champions, were voted the preseason favorites for the 2014 season in voting of the League’s head coaches.
Coaches were not allowed to vote for their own squad.
The League’s regular season champions, UIC, joined Milwaukee in receiving the only other first-place votes. The Panthers tallied six first-place votes in the coaches’ polls while the Flames collected the remaining three.
Milwaukee finished second in the regular season standings last season before winning the tournament championship to advance to the NCAA Tournament. The squad returns Horizon League Co-Player of the Year and Offensive Player of the Year Laurie Bell and Second-Team All-League selection Luke Goodnetter for their senior campaigns. Bell was also a NSCAA All-American selection a year ago and has been named to the MAC Hermann Trophy watch list this coming season.
The Panthers were the only Horizon League team to receive votes in the 2014 NSCAA/Continental Tire Preseason College Rankings for NCAA Division I men’s soccer.
Behind Milwaukee’s 62 points, UIC garnered 56 points to finish second in the poll. The Flames went undefeated in conference play last season under the leadership of Horizon League Coach of the Year Sean Phillips. UIC returns First-Team All-League selections Jesus Torres and Andrew Putna who also received Freshman of the Year and Goalkeeper of the Year accolades.
With each school gathering 44 points, Oakland and Cleveland State tied for third-place. The Vikings will rely on last year’s All-Freshman Team honorees Sergio Manesio and Amari Williams in their sophomore seasons after losing the trio of First-Team All-League seniors of Admir Suljevic, Aslinn Rodas and Zach Ellis-Hayden.
Oakland made its Horizon League debut in 2013, finishing 4-2-1 in conference play to earn the No. 3 seed of the Championship. The Golden Grizzlies bring back Second-Team All-League selections junior Raphael Reynolds and Joey Tinnion for his final season on the pitch for Oakland.
Valparaiso grabbed fifth-place in the poll with 38 points while Wright State followed closely with 34 to capture sixth. The Crusaders placed the three newcomers of Kevin Klett, Omar Lawrence and Adrian Graham on the All-Freshman Team last season but will rely on a key group of seniors to lead the squad in 2014.
Highlighting the returnees for Wright State are Second-Team All-League recipients Brett Elder and Emeka Ononye. Eric Lynch and Jake Stovall were awarded with All-Freshman accolades last year and look to make another splash in the League throughout their second season for the Raiders.
Detroit and Horizon League newcomer Belmont each collected 16 points to tie for seventh-place while Green Bay rounded out the poll with 14 to take ninth.
Belmont joins the conference as an affiliate member in men’s soccer and makes its League debut against Valparaiso in late September. The Bruins will be under the leadership of first-year head coach Bryan Green who was formerly the associate head coach at Drexel University.
The men’s soccer regular season begins Friday, Aug. 29 while conference play kicks-off Friday, Sept. 26. The Horizon League Tournament will feature the top six teams in the League beginning on Monday, Nov. 10 at campus sites. It will continue at the venue of the No. 1 seed Thursday, Nov. 13 with the Championship match taking the pitch Saturday, Nov. 15.