KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Despite suffering its first loss of the season last weekend, the University of Rio Grande men’s soccer team retained the top spot in the NAIA Coaches’ Top 25 Poll announced Tuesday by the national office.
The RedStorm received nine first-place vote and 487 points in the balloting of 18 head coaches representing each of the conferences, independents and unaffiliated groups.
Davenport (Mich.) University is hot on the heels of head coach Scott Morrissey’s squad, tallying seven first-place nods and 485 points. Vanguard (Calif.), whose lone loss came at the hands of Rio Grande last month, gathered the remaining two first-place votes and is ranked third with 470 points.
Rio Grande, which takes a 11-1 record into Wednesday night’s match against rival Shawnee State University after suffering a 2-1 loss at then-No. 25 Union (Ky.) last Saturday, is enjoying its 49th all-time No. 1 ranking – the most appearances in the poll’s top spot since 2000.
The RedStorm has been ranked No. 1 in eight of the past 10 polls dating back to last year and ranks second with 91 consecutive appearances in the Top 25. Only No. 11 Lindsey Wilson has more consecutive appearances with 98.
Oklahoma Wesleyan (436 pts.) and Baker, Kan. (432 pts) round out the top five for the second consecutive week at fourth and fifth, respectively.
Following its win over Rio, Union climbed up nine spots to No. 16. It was the poll’s biggest jump of the week and is the Bulldogs best ranking since Oct. 7, 2014 (No. 14).
Four teams were newcomers to the poll this week – No. 13 Cumberland (Tenn.), No. 19 Dalton State (Ga.), No. 23 Park (Mo.) and No. 24 Hastings (Neb.). Hastings is the only team to be ranked earlier this year. In its second year of existence, Dalton State is in the Top 25 for the first time in school history. Prior to Tuesday, Cumberland last was ranked on Oct. 5, 2005 (No. 22) and Park last was mentioned on Nov. 9, 2010 (No. 20).
Mobile (Ala.), Florida Memorial, Olivet Nazarene (Ill.) and Spring Arbor (Mich.) were the four teams which dropped off the list.
Seventeen of the 19 conferences, Association of Independent Institutions (AII) and unaffiliated group were represented this week. The Heart of America Athletic Conference fields the most representatives in the Top 25 with three total: No. 5 Baker (Kan.), No. 9 Missouri Valley and No. 18 MidAmerica Nazarene (Kan.). Six other leagues landed a pair of ranked programs.
The Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, of which Rio Grande is a member, narrowly missed becoming the seventh league with at least two members in the Top 25. West Virginia University-Tech received 82 points in the balloting, good enough for the equivalent of 26th place.
Randy Payton is the Sports Information Director at the University of Rio Grande.