KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The University of Rio Grande men’s soccer team is ranked seventh in the 2014 NAIA Coaches’ Preseason Top 25 poll, the national office announced Tuesday.
The poll was voted upon by a panel of head coaches representing each of the conferences, independents and unaffiliated groups.
The RedStorm is coming off a 16-3-3 finish last season, winning the Mid-South Conference Tournament championship and reaching the Elite Eight of the national tournament.
Head coach Scott Morrissey’s team, which is now a member of the Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (KIAC), tallied 488 points in the balloting.
Rio Grande returns a number of players from last year’s squad, including junior forward Luiz Filho (Sao Paulo, Brazil), who led the nation in scoring last year en route to earning a first team All-America selection.
The RedStorm open their season this weekend, traveling to Chicago for meetings with St. Xavier on Friday night and Cardinal Stritch (Wis.) - a program which received votes in the balloting - on Sunday afternoon.
Martin Methodist (Tenn.), fresh off its first-ever NAIA Men’s Soccer National Championship, claimed the No. 1 ranking in the poll. The RedHawks gathered 19 of a possible 21 first-place votes to tally 589 total points.
Auburn Montgomery (Ala.) holds at the No. 2 position from the 2013 postseason edition. With 566 total points, the Warhawks were the national runner-up falling 2-1 in overtime to Martin Methodist on Dec. 7.
With its 12th-straight top-five mention, No. 3 Lindsey Wilson (Ky.) posted 549 total points. The Blue Raiders are led by 25-year head coach Ray Wells, who owns more than 430 wins. Lindsey Wilson advanced to the semifinal round in the 2013 national championship.
No. 4 Ashford (Iowa), a national semifinalist a year ago, checks in with 534 points and one first-place nod. The Saints were 16-4-2 last season and expect back three All-Association of Independent (A.I.I.) performers and transfer Adam Wood from Midland (Neb.). Wood was the 2013 Great Plains Athletic Conference Offensive Player of the Year.
Oklahoma Wesleyan completes the list of top-five teams with the No. 5 ranking and 516 points. The Eagles ended their season in double overtime fashion in the national quarterfinals to Auburn Montgomery.
The Southern States Athletic Conference claimed the most teams in the Top 25 among all conferences/independents/unaffiliated groupings. The Heart of America Athletic Conference was next with four teams boasting a position. Fourteen of the 21 conferences/independents/unaffiliated groups were represented this week.
The first regular-season Top 25 Poll will be announced on Sept. 23.