PRESEASON CONFERENCE RANKINGS
|78||Fort Hays St|
Northeastern State RiverHawks
LOCATION: Talequah, OK
COACH: Rob Czlonka will be entering his fifth season at the helm of the RiverHawks. He is 48-17-12 in his career at the school and has never had a losing season.
2014 RECORD: 16-3-2 overall; 11-0-1 MIAA
2014 POSTSEASON: Lost on penalty kicks to Fort Hays State in the third round of the NCAA tournament.
THE CORNERSTONE: So. M/F Justin Todd (6 goals, 1 assist)
THE SUPPORTING CAST: Sr. D Crosby Lee (3 goals, 3 assists); Jr. M/F Jonathan Guzman (4 goals, 1 assist); Sr. M/F Paul Samia (2 goals, 4 assists); Sr. M Frank Garay (1 goal, 5 assists); Jr. GK Jackson Biles (59 saves, 8 shutouts).
THE SKINNY?: The RiverHawks lost their top three scorers but still seem to have enough talent on the offensive side of the ball to be a contender. Biles gives Northeastern State a strong foundation on defense. The cast of six newcomers looks solid as well, including the versatile Juan Amaro, who helped lead his Dallas club team to a national final.
Outlook: Northeastern State won the MIAA tournament and it’s 16 wins were the second-most in school history. The RiverHawks have established a culture where winning is a habit not a hope and they are the team to beat in the conference until proven otherwise.
Fort Hays State Tigers
LOCATION: Hays, Kan.
COACH: Brett Parker will be in his sixth season as the head coach of the Tigers. He has guided them to three consecutive appearances in the NCAA tournament.
2014 RECORD: 11-7-4 overall; 8-2-2 MIAA
2014 POSTSEASON: Lost 3-2 to Quincy in the Elite Eight.
THE CORNERSTONE: Sr. F Michael Cole (7 goals, 4 assists — led Tigers in goals and points).
THE SUPPORTING CAST: Sr. F Austin Clifton (6 goals, 5 assists); Sr. F Maurizio Costa (5 goals, 3 assists); Sr. F Joe Albright (5 goals, 3 assists); Jr M Anthony Hernandez (3 goals, 5 assists); Sr M David Lucio (3 goals, 3 assists).
THE SKINNY?: Fort Hays is primed for another NCAA tourney run with Cole back in the fold. The Tigers’ leading scorer has plenty of talent around him. The Tigers welcome in a strong recruiting class as well. It features eight players, including Mauricio Etcheverry out of Paraguay.
Outlook: Fort Hays made it all the way to the national quarterfinal round last season. Duplicating that success is never easy, but despite lacking experience in goal, the Tigers will be a conference title favorite and one of the best teams in the country.
LOCATION: St. Charles, MO.
COACH: Carl Hutter is a veteran coach, entering his 22nd season this year. Hutter has won more than 400 games in his stellar career.
2014 RECORD: 10-7-3 overall; 7-4-1 MIAA
THE CORNERSTONE: Sr. F Andre Hayne (6 goals – tied for second on team in goals scored).
THE SUPPORTING CAST: Sr. M Alfredo Paez (7 goals, 3 assists); Jr. D Steven Hutchison (2 goals, 5 assists); So. D Jeremy Tutas (1 goal, 1 assist); So. GK Andrew Hamerlinck (51 saves, 5 shutouts).
THE SKINNY?: Hayne and Paez give the Lions a formidable one-two punch for a team that will look to raise its goal production after tallying 30 a year ago. Hamerlinck provides stability for the defense as he started 16 games last year.
Outlook: After falling short of its third consecutive conference tourney championship, motivation will be high for the Lions this season. With several key players back, including their top scorer and goalie, no one should be surprised if Lindenwood returns to the top of the conference.
Upper Iowa Peacocks
LOCATION: Fayette, Iowa
COACH: Jason Carlson will be in his third season as the head coach of the Peacocks. He guided Upper Iowa to its second consecutive berth in the conference tournament.
2014 RECORD: 10-6-2 overall; 6-5-1 MIAA
THE CORNERSTONE: So M Johnny McBeth (7 goals, 2 assists – ranked second on the team in points).
THE SUPPORTING CAST: Sr. M Greg Marshall (3 goals, 3 assists); Sr. F Aaron Calkins, (2 goals, 1 assist); Sr. F Jared Newman (2 goals, 2 assists); Sr. D Troy Ewers (3 goals); So GK Connor Rortvedt (75 saves, 2 shutouts).
THE SKINNY?: Upper Iowa has strong senior leadership and experience on both sides of the ball. The Peacocks return their second-leading scorer and a goalie who gave up only 25 goals in 15 starts.
Outlook: The Peacocks are coming off a stellar season and hope to take the next step. They proved last year that they can compete at a high level in the conference and should be poised to make a run at the championship.
LOCATION: Searcy, Ark.
COACH: Odie Guzman is heading into his fourth season and is a former player at Harding. His team has won 10 or more games twice in the last three seasons.
2014 RECORD: 4-9-3 overall; 4-7-1 MIAA
THE CORNERSTONE: R-Fr. GK Thomas Shults (35 saves, 1 shutout – started eight games last season).
THE SUPPORTING CAST: Jr. F Barry Foster (2 goals); R-Fr. Daniel Gamboa (1 goal); Sr. M Josiah Ireland (1 goal, 2 assists); Sr. M Christopher Walker (2 assists).
THE SKINNY?: The Bison lost their top four scoring threats, which will make it a challenge for it to score more goals than it did a year ago (21). Harding will need to count on its defense early on, particularly Shults, as the offense gets settled in. Newcomers Cooper Mosley could be a big help. He was a two-time all-district defender at Chickasha High in Oklahoma.
Outlook: It was a down year for the Bison. Getting back on track won’t be easy, if the Bison can have a winning season, it would be a big accomplishment.
Southern Nazarene Crimson Storm
LOCATION: Bethany, OK.
COACH: George Schroeder will be going into his ninth season as the head coach of the Crimson Storm. He has won 46 games in his time at the school.
2014 RECORD: 4-7-1 overall; 3-9 MIAA
THE CORNERSTONE: Sr. D Mitchell Johnson (2 goals, 2 assist — finished fourth on the team in points).
THE SUPPORTING CAST: Sr. Gustavo Mendoza (1 goal, 1 assist); So. M Freddy DiNang (1 goal, 1 assist); So. F Ismael Fernandez (3 assists); So. GK Jeff Ray (93 saves, 1 shutout).
THE SKINNY?: If the Crimson Storm is going to be better than it was a year ago, it needs to find players capable of being consistent scorers. Only one returning player scored more than a goal last season. One player who could make an immediate impact is Zach Davis. The talented defender out of Rockwall Texas helped his Dallas club soccer team win back-to-back Premier League championships.
Outlook: Southern Nazarene was doubled up a year ago, scoring 25 goals while allowing 50. That will have to change if the Crimson Storm is going to make strides and end the year with a winning record.
Southwest Baptist Bearcats
LOCATION: Bolivar, MO.
COACH: Rob Podeyn has been the head coach at Southwest since 2009 and led the Bearcats to their first conference championship during the 2013 campaign.
2014 RECORD: 0-18 overall; 0-12 MIAA
THE CORNERSTONE: R-So. F Kyler Moore (4 goals — top returning goal scorer from last year).
THE SUPPORTING CAST: ) Jr. F/M Ryan Estus (2 goals, 1 assist); Jr. M Garrett Gibson (2 assists); Sr. M Joshua Mason (1 goal, 1 assist).
THE SKINNY?: The offense needs to improve if Southwest is going bounce back from a rugged year. The Bearcats scored only 17 goals while getting lit up for 70. Southwest added some international flavor to their roster in the offseason, bringing in Gabriel Gaviolli out of Brazil and Dylan Saib from England. Both have a chance to step in and play right away.
Outlook: No one should expect the Bearcats to be a contender this season, especially with only one player back who scored more than two goals. If they can improve defensively, though, they should be a decent team in the league this year.