Rio soccer still top in NAIA poll

By Randy Payton - For Ohio Valley Publishing

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — For the second consecutive week, the University of Rio Grande men’s soccer team was a unanimous choice for the top spot in the NAIA Coaches’ Top 25 Poll.

The RedStorm received 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 released Tuesday by the national office.

Rio Grande, which wrapped up the Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference regular season title with an 8-0 win at Brescia University last Saturday, is ranked No. 1 in the poll for the 52nd time since 2000 – more than any other NAIA program.

The RedStorm (16-1 overall, 6-0 KIAC) has been ranked No. 1 in 11 of the past 13 polls dating back to the 2014 campaign and ranks second with 94 consecutive appearances in the Top 25. Only No. 11 Lindsey Wilson has more consecutive appearances with 101.

Rio’s 16 wins are the most among NAIA programs.

Oklahoma Wesleyan (475 pts.) and Davenport, Mich. (469 pts.) remained in second and third place, respectively, while Northwestern Ohio (449 pts.) jumped one position to four and Missouri Valley (439 pts.) rounds out the top five.

No. 11 Biola (Calif.) boasted the best positive movement within the Top 25 with a 12-spot jump. The Eagles are 7-1 in their last eight matches, including a 1-0 shutout against then-No. 6 Vanguard (Calif.) on Oct. 21.

The biggest drop in the poll this week belonged to No. 21 Lindsey Wilson (Ky.), which tumbled down 10 positions. In their last eight matches, the Blue Raiders are 4-3-1.

Two schools were newcomers to the poll this week – No. 18 Campbellsville and No. 25 Roosevelt (Ill.). This is the first men’s soccer national mention for the Lakers in school history. Campbellsville is ranked for the first time since Oct. 15, 2013 (No. 23).

Bellevue (Neb.) and WVU Tech – which dropped a 3-0 decision last week at Rio – were the two teams which dropped off the list.

Sixteen of the 19 conferences, Association of Independent Institutions (AII) and unaffiliated group were represented this week. The 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.

By Randy Payton

For Ohio Valley Publishing