KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Defending national champion Rio Grande (Ohio) begins the 2016 season in the top spot of the NAIA Men’s Soccer Coaches’ Preseason Top 25 Poll, the national office announced Tuesday.
The RedStorm spent the entire 2015 season ranked No. 1, except in preseason, and ended their campaign with an overtime national championship victory over MidAmerica Nazarene (Kan.), 1-0.
Rio Grande, which earned 18 first place votes and 498 total points to top the balloting, has now been ranked No. 1 for 57 weeks in program history. The RedStorm earned 18 first place votes and 498 total points to top the rankings.
Head coach Scott Morrissey’s squad returns three NAIA All-Americans from last season – 2015 NAIA Men’s Soccer National Player of the Year, William Paulino, who finished the year with 19 goals in 23 games played; sophomore goalkeeper Benjamin Martinez, who played in 24 games last season and was a First Team All-American; and Joao Paulo Antonio, a junior midfielder, was also named a Second Team All-American.
Rio Grande opens its 2016 regular season schedule on Friday night in Chicago, Ill. against St. Xavier.
MidAmerica Nazarene (Kan.), last year’s National runner-up, comes in at the No. 2 spot in the preseason poll after receiving 482 points. After an 18-6-1 record last season, MidAmerica bring back one NAIA Honorable Mention All-American in Eduardo Heringer who contributed five goals to the Pioneers last season. MidAmerica’s leading goal scorer, Tanner Hunjak, also returns for his junior season. MidAmerica Nazarene ended 2015 with an 18-6-1 overall record.
Looking at the rest of the top five in the preseason poll, there was no movement from the 2015 postseason poll. The No. 3 spot stays with Missouri Valley, No. 4 goes to Lindenwood-Belleview (Ill.) and coming in at No. 5 is Davenport (Mich.), the 2014 national champions.
Sixteen of the 19 conferences, Association of Independent Institutions (AII) and unaffiliated group were represented this week. The Heart of America Athletic Conference and the American Midwest Conference tied at three teams for the most conference representation.
Randy Payton is the Sports Information Director for the University of Rio Grande.