KANSAS CITY, Mo. — National champion University of Rio Grande was a unanimous choice for the top spot for the sixth consecutive time in the final post-season rankings released Wednesday night by the NAIA national office.
The RedStorm garnered all 18 first-place votes and 498 points in the balloting of head coaches representing each of the NAIA’s conferences, independents and unaffiliated groups.
Head coach Scott Morrissey’s squad outlasted MidAmerican Nazarene (Kan.), 1-0 in overtime in last Saturday’s title game was ranked No. 1 in the poll for the 56th time since 2000 – more than any other NAIA program.
The RedStorm (23-1), who became the first top seed to win the tourney since Lindsey Wilson in 2009, has been ranked No. 1 in 15 of the past 17 polls going back to the 2014 season and is second nationally with 98 consecutive appearances in the Top 25. Only Lindsey Wilson, which finished No. 24, has more consecutive appearances with 105.
The 10 straight No. 1 rankings is the most in-a-row since Lindsey Wilson accomplished the same number in a period which spanned the end of the 2011 season into the 2012 campaign.
MidAmerican Nazarene (482 pts.) finished second in the final poll, while Missouri Valley (466 pts.) was third, Lindenwood-Belleville, Ill. (441) took fourth place and 2014 national champion Davenport, Mich. (440 pts.) rounded out the top five.
No. 2 MidAmerica Nazarene and No. 9 Indiana Wesleyan both claim the best improvement with a 14-spot hike. Conversely, No. 16 Science & Arts (Okla.) dropped down 10 positions for the worst tumble.
Two newcomers – No. 17 Bellevue (Neb.) and No. 4 Lindenwood-Belleville – both appeared earlier this year in the Top 25. No. 21 WVU Tech (W.Va.) and No. 25 Ashford (Iowa) dropped out this week. The big note is that Ashford has its 45-straight weeks of consecutive rankings stopped.
Sixteen of the 19 conferences, Association of Independent Institutions (AII) and unaffiliated group were represented this week. The American Midwest Conference, Heart of America Athletic Conference and Mid-South Conference field the most representatives in the Top 25 with three each.
Randy Payton is the Sports Information Director at the University of Rio Grande.