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KWU Men’s Soccer Opens Season at No. 23

KSAL Sports - August 21, 2013 7:49 am

Kansas City, Mo. – The Kansas Wesleyan Men’s Soccer team earned a No. 23 ranking as the NAIA released its 2013 NAIA Men’s Soccer Coaches’ Preseason Top 25 Poll on Tuesday afternoon.
The Coyotes were ranked No.18 in the final poll of the 2012 season when they finished with a 16-3-2 record and won the KCAC Regular Season and Tournament Championships for a third straight season, and advanced the NAIA Men’s Soccer National Championship Opening Round.

Wesleyan will feature a very young team in 2013, but a strong group of incoming freshmen and transfers along with a good group of returning players will lead the way for the Coyotes. Gabe Romo is in his first season as head coach for the Coyotes, taking over for Mike Dibbini, who left KWU after eight seasons to become the head women’s coach at Cal Poly-Pomona.

KWU opens its 2013 season on August 31 in McKenzie, Tenn., against Bethel University.

Defending national champion Belhaven (Miss.) remains atop the 2013 NAIA Men’s Soccer Coaches’ Preseason Top 25 poll. Belhaven’s unanimous selection—with all 19 first-place votes and 529 total points—gives the Blazers consecutive No. 1 rankings for the first time in school history.

Mobile (Ala.), the Southern States Athletic Conference foe whom Belhaven defeated 2-0 in the 2012 National Championship, accumulated 510 total points to earn the No. 2 ranking.

Lindsey Wilson (Ky.), who compiled an NAIA-best 22-2 record a year ago, received 496 points en route to the No. 3 position. The Blue Raiders fell 1-0 to Belhaven in the 2012 National Championship semifinals.

No. 4 MidAmerica Nazarene (Kan.) and No. 5 Auburn Montgomery (Ala.) round out the top five with 477 and 461 points, respectively. Auburn Montgomery, No. 6 Concordia (Calif.) and No. 10 Science & Arts (Okla.) are the only teams, among all NAIA soccer programs, to return multiple NAIA All-Americans from last season.

No. 9 Rio Grande (Ohio) earns its 50th consecutive Top 10 ranking, dating back to the 2009 Preseason Top 25 poll. This is just the fourth time Rio Grande has been ranked outside of the top five in the preseason poll.

There were no changes among the top 16 positions from the 2012 Postseason Top 25 Poll, but there was some movement in the bottom third of the poll.

No. 20 Cardinal Stritch (Wis.) made the largest jump, moving up five spots, while Olivet Nazarene (Ill.) fell eight spots, landing at No. 25. There were no newcomers to the Top 25.

The Southern States Athletic Conference claimed three of the top five positions in the preseason poll and leads all conferences/independents/unaffiliated groupings with five teams in the Top 25: Belhaven, Mobile, Auburn Montgomery, No. 8 Southern Poly (Ga.) and No. 22 Southern Wesleyan (S.C.).

The Heart of America Athletic Conference, with three, and the American Midwest Conference, Mid-South Conference, Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference and the unaffiliated grouping of Frontier/A.I.I./North Star, with two each, also placed multiple teams in the Preseason Top 25.

The poll was voted upon by a panel of head coaches representing each of the conferences, independents and unaffiliated groups. For the entire 2013 Coaches’ Top 25 Poll schedule, click here.

The first regular-season Top 25 Poll will be announced Sept. 10.