American Tops Patriot League Preseason Men's Soccer Poll

PATRIOTLEAGUEDOTORG Cristobal Soto was the preseason pick to continue his reign as Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year.
Cristobal Soto was the preseason pick to continue his reign as Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year.

Aug 20, 2013

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CENTER VALLEY, Pa. - With a roster that boasts four returning All-Patriot League performers and two award winners from a year ago, American was selected the preseason favorite in the men's soccer poll of head coaches and sports information directors who could not vote for their own teams or student-athletes.

A pair of major awards were doled out as well. Loyola Maryland sophomore forward Larry Ndjock was named the Preseason Offensive Player of the Year, while American senior defender Cristobal Soto, the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, was selected as the preseason favorite to defend his award.

The Eagles, who have claimed the League Tournament's No. 1 seed each of the last two years, topped the poll with 151 points and nine first-place votes, ahead of second-place and League newcomer Boston University, which garnered 130 points and three first-place ballots. The second of the League's two new members this season, Loyola Maryland, took third with 121 points and four first-place votes, while defending League champion Lafayette captured fourth with 115 points and three first-place ballots. The last first-place vote went to Colgate, which finished fifth in the poll with 98 points.

Sixth place went to Bucknell with 87 points, followed by Navy in seventh with 67. The rest of the poll was rounded out by Lehigh (eighth, 51 points), Holy Cross (ninth, 44) and Army (10th, 36).

American and BU tied with three Preseason All-Leaguers each, while Loyola placed a pair. Bucknell, Lafayette and Navy had one selection apiece.

Ndjock was named the MAAC Rookie of the Year and earned first-team all-conference honors after scoring seven goals with three assists for 17 points last season. His efforts earned national recognition as well, garnering him second-team All-Freshmen accolades from College Soccer News and second-team All-Northeast accolades from the NSCAA. He enters his sophomore campaign as a College Soccer News third-team All-America selection in addition to his Preseason Offensive Player of the Year nod.

A stalwart on American's defense for three seasons, Soto is now a two-time Preseason All-League selection and earned his second first-team All-League laurel at the end of last year to go along with the Defensive Player of the Year nod from the head coaches. He started all 19 matches for the Eagles in guiding them to 11 victories and a fourth consecutive appearance in the League championship bout. Soto also pitched in offensively when called upon with two goals, including a game-winner in a League match versus Army, and five points overall.

American (11-6-2, 5-0-2 Patriot in 2012) became the second team in three years to go unbeaten in League contests and advanced to the League finals for the fourth year in a row. Todd West became the first back-to-back Coach of the Year in League history in 2012, and enters his 14th season on the Eagles' sideline. Senior midfielder Colin Seigfried (5g, 7a) scored a League-best 17 points last season to earn first-team All-League laurels and adds preseason honors this fall. Senior goalkeeper Billy Knutsen (11-6-2, 0.93 GAA, 7 SHO) is the reigning Goalkeeper of the Year and also a preseason All-League pick. In all the team returns four first-team All-Leaguers from 2012.

Boston University (6-8-4, 3-2-2 America East) is coming off a disappointing season with its lowest win total since 2005. But the Terriers are buoyed by three Preseason All-League selections, led by junior forward Dominique Badji (3g, 2a) and senior midfielder Anthony Ciccione (1g, 8a). Junior defender Kelvin Madzongwe, the Terriers' third member of the Preseason All-League squad, played just three matches last year before being lost due to injury. Junior Nick Thomson (6-8-4, 1.21 GAA, 7 SHO) will guard the BU net. Shepherding the program into the League is 29th-year head coach Neil Roberts.

Loyola (13-6-1, 7-1-0 MAAC) came dangerously close to the NCAA Tournament last season, but dropped a 2-1 double-overtime heartbreaker to Niagara in the MAAC title game. There's a plethora of Greyhound talent returning for head coach Mark Mettrick, who won't have to rely just on Ndjock for scoring. Despite the graduation of last year's top distributer in Kevin Curran (7a), Loyola returns its top four scorers. Senior midfielder Stephen Dooley (6g, 5a) is a Preseason All-League selection, while junior forward Connor Thompson (7g, 6a) and sophomore midfielder Dominic Marshall (2g, 5a) are expected to provide plenty of firepower.

On paper it might look like 2012 was a comeback year for Lafayette (9-8-4, 3-1-3). After missing the previous two League Tournaments by the narrowest of margins, the Leopards captured the No. 2 seed en route to blanking Colgate and American to capture its first championship since 2005. But the Leopards had always been in the mix, missing the 2010 tournament by one point and failing to qualify in '11 when it lost out on a tiebreaker. Last season was the Leopards' 12th straight winning campaign, and expectations of a successful title defense are high with six starters returning. The squad features a pair of returning All-Leaguers, including senior midfielder Alec Golini (7g, 1a), a preseason pick this fall. Another key returnee is senior goalkeeper Nathan McDonald (9-5-3, 0.90, 8 SHO), the reigning Patriot League Tournament MVP.

Just two seasons removed from its last League title, Colgate (5-8-6, 3-1-3) has qualified for three straight League Tournaments and seven of the last eight. Should that string continue under ninth-year head coach Erik Ronning, it will happen with plenty of new faces on offense. Just one of the Raiders' top five scorers from 2012 is back in sophomore Tyler Forbes (3g). Midfielder Nick Arpey (2a) played in all 19 matches a year ago and will shoulder a significant amount of the leadership responsibilities for a roster that features five seniors. Junior defender Evan Heroux is back after earning first-team All-League laurels a season ago.

Bucknell (7-8-5, 2-3-2) returned to the League Tournament last year following a one-year hiatus that came after back-to-back titles in 2009 and '10. Leading scorer Brendan Burgdorf graduated after scoring 11 points (3g, 5a) in his senior season, but Jesse Klug (3g, 4a) and Chris Thorsheim (4a) put together strong rookie campaigns and are looking to better their numbers this fall as sophomores. Senior defender Mayowa Alli (2g, 1a) was named Preseason All-League and is one of the most dangerous players on the pitch for 15th-year head coach Brendan Nash. Sophomore Mike Lansing had a solid rookie year in goal (6-7-4, 5 SHOs in 18 starts).

Navy (7-7-3, 1-4-2) hoped to return to the League tournament again in 2012 a year after snapping the League's longest postseason drought in '11. But the season didn't quite play out that way for the Mids, who managed just two points in their final six League matches after a win over eventual champion Lafayette. The backline features reigning Rookie of the Year and Preseason All-League pick Derek Vogel (4g, 2a), with help from seniors Zach Davis and Nick Dubee. Last season's leading scorer junior Joseph Greenspan (6a, 4a) is due back, along with sophomore forward Thomas Shiiba (3g, 5a).

Lehigh (4-12-1, 2-4-1) could have thrust itself into the Patriot League Tournament on the last day of the regular season a year ago, but the Mountain Hawks' 2-2 draw at Army left them out of the postseason for only the third time since 2000. Lehigh never fully recovered from starts of 0-7 and 1-10 en route to its final overall mark, but a three-match win streak in October and a tough 2-1 loss at top-five program Maryland instilled confidence late in the season. Led by senior James Meyerkord (2g, 1a), nine of 10 players to register a point are back. The Mountain Hawks managed just 10 goals all season, and will look to increase the scoring to support senior goalkeeper Ciaran Nugent (4-11-1, 1.49, 2 SHO), who has returning first-team All-League defender Ali Famili in front of him.

Like Lehigh, Holy Cross (5-10-2, 2-3-2) was in position to play its way into the Patriot League Tournament on the final day of the regular season. The Crusaders lost a 1-0 heartbreaker at American late in regulation, and the remainder of the day's results left them on the outside looking in. A pair of first-team All-Leaguers in seniors Josh Cintas (6a, 1a) and Monty Sanders (3g, 2a) are back to lead the offense with classmate Tommy Uttaro (2g, 4a). Sophomore Kevin Wright (4-5-2, 1.34, 3 SHO) emerged in goal for the Crusaders, who went 5-1-1 at home but winless on the road.

Under fourth-year head coach Russell Payne, Army (4-10-3, 1-3-3) will feature a roster with just one senior in 2013. There will be plenty of opportunities for new faces to step up on offense as four of the top five point generators from last season graduated, while the midfield and defense is held down by juniors Devin Perlee and Sean Mogan. Junior goalkeeper Winston Boldt (4-10-3, 1.46) pitched three shutouts and stopped 73 percent of shots sent his way.

All 10 teams open Friday, Aug. 30. The day begins with Army hosting VMI at noon, followed by a trifecta of 5 p.m. starts: American battles George Washington in Fairfax, Va., in the D.C. College Cup, Boston University hosts Boston College and Loyola visits Saint Joseph's. The remaining six contests are all set for 7 p.m., with Lehigh entertaining Bryant, Bucknell playing host to Canisius, Holy Cross going to Hartford, Lafayette welcoming La Salle, Navy visiting Davidson and Colgate entertaining Syracuse.

With the expansion of the Patriot League to 10 members for 2013, the field for its men's soccer tournament will increase as well from four qualifiers to six. The top two seeds will earn byes to the semifinals, while the No. 3 seed will host No. 6 and No. 4 will host No. 5 in the quarterfinals on Tuesday, Nov. 12. The top seed will host the semifinals on Friday, Nov. 15, and the championship on Sunday, Nov. 17. The tournament will re-seed following the quarterfinals. The winner advances to the NCAA Tournament with an automatic bid.

2013 Preseason Poll

1. American - 151 points (9 first-place votes)
2. Boston University - 130 (3)
3. Loyola Maryland - 121 (4)
4. Lafayette - 115 (3)
5. Colgate - 98 (1)
6. Bucknell - 87
7. Navy - 67
8. Lehigh - 51
9. Holy Cross - 44
10. Army - 36

Preseason All-League Team

Dominique Badji, Boston University, Jr., F
Larry Ndjock, Loyola Maryland, So., F
Colin Seigfried, American, Sr., M
Anthony Ciccone, Boston University, Sr., M
Alec Golini, Lafayette, Sr., M
Stephen Dooley, Loyola Maryland, Sr., M
Cristobal Soto, American, Sr., D
Kelvin Madzongwe, Boston University, Jr., D
Mayowa Alli, Bucknell, Sr., D
Derek Vogel, Navy, So., D
Billy Knutsen, American, Sr., GK

Preseason Offensive Player of the Year - Larry Ndjock, Loyola Maryland, So., F
Preseason Defensive Player of the Year - Cristobal Soto, American, Sr., D