INDIANAPOLIS -- Oakland’s men’s soccer team, the defending 2015 Horizon League Tournament Champions and the Wright State Raiders were voted to top the Horizon League in the 2016 preseason poll. Both squads received three first-place votes in the poll by voting of the League’s ten head coaches.
Coaches were not allowed to vote for their own team.
Oakland returns Co-Offensive Player of the Year Austin Ricci to the midfield attack. Ricci tabbed three goals and tallied one assist last season in League play while averaging .88 points per game and .38 goals per game. Alongside Ricci will be fellow All-League honoree Nick Strack who was a member of the Golden Grizzlies’ back line that record seven shutouts a year ago.
Wright State will be led by senior forward Peguy Ngatcha who was named to the First Team All-League and All-Tournament Teams in 2015. Ngatcha topped the team in scoring last year with seven goals, three assists and 17 points. Fellow First Team pick senior Eric Lynch will also lead the Raiders on the attack as he finished his 2015 campaign with five goals, three assists and 13 points. In addition, Wright State will look to Second Team selection Sam DeRoy to control the midfield as he started all 21 games a season ago.
Defending regular-season champions, UIC, took the third spot in the poll. The Flames return goalkeeper Andrew Putna after starting all 18 contests as a junior in 2015 and recording seven shutouts. Helping to protect the back line will be sophomore defensemen Mike Jimenez. Jimenez earned All-Freshman accolades last season while playing and starting in all but one game for the Flames.
Valparaiso grabbed the fourth slot with 60 points as the Crusaders welcome back Goalkeeper of the Year Nico Campbell to the net for his senior campaign. Campbell posted a .72 goal against average in goal last season while make 37 saves over his nine League starts.
The Vikings come in after at No. 5 and will be led by 2015 Defensive Player of the Year Sergio Manesio. Manesio presented a solid presence for Cleveland State’s defense a year ago as the team gave up only eight goals in conference play and tabbed four shutouts.
Detroit and Milwaukee were neck-and-neck for the sixth and seventh spots on the poll. Spiro Pliakos is back for his junior season on the pitch for the Titans after earning First Team honors and was named to the NSCAA All-Great Lakes Region Third Team. The Panthers’ Nick Moon set career-highs as a sophomore in games played, games started, shots and minutes played and will be a veteran to a young squad this season.
Audi Jepson will lead the eighth ranked Phoenix at midfield. The senior scored four goals and posted four assists for Green Bay in 2015 and was named to the All-League Second Team.
After its inaugural year in the Horizon League, Northern Kentucky took the eighth spot as well in the poll. Defender Dylan Carss is back for the Norse after starting all 19 games and recording the most minutes played for the second-straight season.
Belmont rounded out the rankings as Dennis Kluba returns for his second year after receiving All-Freshman honors. Kluba started all 19 games in 2015 and led the team in minutes played.
The men’s soccer season kicks-off Friday, August 26 with conference play starting Saturday, September 10.
2016 Preseason Voting
Rank School (1st) Points
T1. Oakland (3) 73
T1. Wright State (3) 73
3. UIC (1) 63
4. Valparaiso (3) 60
5. Cleveland State 48
6. Milwaukee 40
7. Detroit 38
T8. Green Bay 23
T8. Northern Kentucky 23
10. Belmont 9