Although the 2015 NCAA Division II soccer season just ended, it’s never too early to take a look at teams with a shot at winning the championship in 2016.
Here is my look at five teams that have a shot to win it all next season. Included in that group of contenders is the Pfeiffer Falcons, the winners of this year’s title. They will be the top title contender heading into next season.
It’s never easy repeating as a champion but if there is any team with the potential to do it, it’s Pfeiffer. The Falcons will return everyone from their championship squad, including the nation’s leading goal scorer in Nathan Regis. Regis finished the season with 32 goals.
The Falcons scored a total of 87 goals this season and it’s scary to think about how good that offense might be with another year of experience under its belt. The goalkeeper position is solid as well with Tomas Correa returning. He won 16 games as a freshman and gave up just 11 goals.
What will also help Pfeiffer make another run at the title is the fact that the players now know what it takes to get to the top. They gained valuable experienced during their march to the title and have the belief inside of them that winning a title is realistic if they play up to their potential.
Rockhurst saw its run at the title end in the national semifinals but there is no question the Hawks have the ability to be one of the title contenders in 2016. The Hawks return their top four goal scorers and that will put them in a prime position to win a championship. Kaleb Jackson will be the top scoring threat back after tallying eight goals and 10 assists a season ago. Claudio Romano came through with eight goals and two assists.
Adam Michel and Mitch Moncada scored five and six goals, respectively, while Giancula Bottoni rturns as one of the team’s top play-makers. He finished with 11 assists a year ago while also scoring twice.
The defense will be set as well with Logan Feldmann back in goal. Feldmann started 22 games and gave up just 13 goals. He won 18 games and recorded 13 shutouts for the Hawks.
Charleston Golden Eagles
The Golden Eagles have played in the final four the last two years and they are hoping next year is their time to get to the top. The good news for Charleston is All-American Will Roberts will be back. He led the team in scoring this year, punching in 21 goals to go along with six assists.
Felipe Antonio will also be back for the Golden Eagles after scoring 10 goals and dishing out four assists. Fabian Veit will also be back after a strong junior season in which he allowed just 14 goals and recorded 12 shutouts. The Golden Eagles have a few holes to fill but the experience the team has gained the last two years should be enough to make it a contender for the 2016 championship.
Palm Beach Atlantic Sailfish
The Sailfish return 18 players from a team that won the first South Region title in program history and played in the Elite Eight where it lost to eventual national champion Pfeiffer. Palm Beach finished the year at 17-2-1, the best record in program history.
Palm Beach will welcome back three of its top scorers from an offense that racked up 83 goals on the season. The group includes Lucas DaSilva, who came through with 17 goals and seven assists. Oscar Farias tallied 10 goals and five assists and Lucas Coutinho scored eight goals while dishing out 14 assists.
The Sailfish will also have their starting goalkeeper back as Steeven Raymont will return as well. Raymont allowed only 20 goals all season and made 52 saves. He won 15 games and recorded five shutouts.
Palm Beach will also be able to bank on the experience of playing deep into the NCAA tournament and that should serve as a driving force behind its success next season.
Colorado Mines Orediggers
The Orediggers won 18 games this past season and shouldn’t drop off to much next season. They will return two of the top scoring threats in the country in Jonathan Haist and Nikolaus Grotz. The two combined for 23 goals, including 12 by Haist. Grotz came through with a team-best 15 assists.
The goalkeeping position is set as well with Collin Hall back in the fold. Hall started 19 games this past season and racked up 86 saves. He allowed just 18 goals and had 10 shutouts to his credit.
Mines was one of the most consistent teams all season and with the talent it has back, it should be in the heart of the title race.