College Soccer News 2015 Preseason National Poll

Let's say it up-front, it is a little difficult to predict at the begining of a season how teams will fare but you have to start somewhere. Pre-season polls are based on a combination of factors including performance the past year, returning talent, returning experience, depth, the gaps that have to be filled, the ability of the newcomers to contribute, and intangibles but significant factors like team leadership, heart, momentum, and toughness. One thing that you can count on is that there will be over acheivers and under achievers in 2015 and that changes will occur in the weekly rankings and the final season ending poll to reflect what really counts which is what happens on the field of play. 

#1

UCLA

No team in the country enters the season with more talent than the Bruins. As in the past the unanswered question is can they pull it all together into a unified team. The attack will be powered by Larry Ndjock, Abu Danladi and Seyi Adekoya. Grady Howe and Brian Iloski anchor the midfield and the back line led by Michael Amick should be among the best in the country. The sky is the limit for the Bruins in 2015.  

#2

Virginia

Seven starters return from the 2014 team that won the National Championship but scored the fewest goals (27) of any Virginia team, in large part due to injuries, during the George Gelnovatch era. The healthy return of forward Marcus-Salandy-Defour who missed the 2014 season due to injury is a big plus. Senior Darius Madison and newcomer Edward Opoku are among others who will contribute to the attack. The defense requires some rebuilding but don't expect a dropoff. 

#3

Georgetown

Players who netted twenty-three of the thirty goals the Hoyas scored last year are slated to return. Senior Brandon Allen (11g, 3a) and junior Alex Muyl (2g, 6a) should be among the most dangerous forward duos in the country. A solid group of midfielders return and the Hoyas backline of Joshua Yaro, Keegan Rosenbery, Josh Turnley and Cole Seiler should be awesome. Expect Georgetown to have another very successful season in 2015.   

#4

Creighton

Eight starters return from the 2014 team that was 16-3-3 overall, secured the Big East Regular season title, and advanced to the Elite Eight in the NCAA Tournament. Creighton will welcome back its top six goal scorers including junior forward Fabian Herbers (10g, 8a), the Big East Offensive Player of the Year, and senior midfielder Timo Pitter (6g, 9a), the Big East Midfielder of the Year. The Bluejays lose back Jose Ribas due to graduation but their defense anchored by senior goalkeeper Connor Sparrow and senior back Vincent Keller should again be among the strongest in the country.  

#5

Stanford

There is much to like about the Cardinal who won the Pac-12 title in 2014 for the first time since  2001 and earned the number six seed in the NCAA Tourney. For starters, six out of the program's eight 2014 All-Pac-12 selections return, along with a solid core of supporting players, and a banner recruiting class. Junior All-American Jordan Morris (4g, 6a) who is the real deal returns up-top along with redshirt senior Eric Verso (5g, 5a). Sophomore Corey Baird (4g, 4a) and senior Ty Thompson (0g, 1a) return in the midfield. The defense led by backs senior Brandon Vincent (6g, 1a) who has been a starter since arriving on The Farm, sophomore Tomas Hilliard-Arce (2g, 0a), and junior Brian Nana-Sinkam and junior netminder Andrew Epstein should be superb. The question is the extent to which this group can merge their individual talents into a tough and unified team.  

#6

Providence

The big question is what can Craig Stewart who directed the Friars to their first ever Big East Title and their first ever trip to the Final Four in 2014 in just his third season as the head coach at Providence do for an encore in 2015?  Stewart will be without the services of Fabio Machado and Markus Naglestad up-top, midfielder Phil Towler, backs Brandon Adler, Rob Bialy, and Thomas Ballenthin and goalkeeper Keasel Broome due to graduation. However on the plus side junior Mac Steeves (11g, 4a) returns up-top, junior midfielders Julian Gressel (5g, 5a) and Dominik Machado (5g, 2a) who have been starters for the past two seasons return, as well as backs redshirt senior Jeff Kilday and redshirt sophomore Mark Jecewiz. Brendan Constantine and Guyllian Kabala are among the highly regarded newcomers who could be difference makers.  

#7

Notre Dame

All-American senior outside midfielder Patrick Hodan who led the Irish in scoring last year with nine goals returns to lead the attack. Sophomores Jeffrey Farina (2g, 7a) and Jon Gallagher (3g, 3a) should play key roles up-top after gaining valuable experience last year. Seniors Connor Klekota and Evan Panken will be key ingredients in the midfield. Juniors Brandon Aubrey and Matt Habrowski and senior Max Lachowecki will anchor what looks to be a solid defense. The play in goal may be the X-Factor for the Irish.  

#8

Washington

The Huskies will be without the services of forward Darwin Jones and midfielder Cristian Roldan among others but seven starters return along with netminder Ryan Herman who was the starter in goal in 2013.  Four of Washington's top five goal scorers return led by junior forward Mason Robertson (7g, 2a) and senior winger Josh Heard (7g, 1a). Senior midfielder James Moberg returns to set the pace in the midfield. Seniors Justin Schmidt and MIchael Gallagher and sophomore Justin Fiddes return to give the Huskies a solid backline. Herman is the real deal in goal. 

#9

Maryland

Maryland's 2014 season ending 1-0 loss to UMBC at home was a bummer for a team that was 3-5-2 after ten games but turned things around to win the Big Ten regular season and tournament titles and secure the number four seed in the NCAA Tournament. As a result you can count on the Terps entering the 2015 campaign with a sense of urgency. This is a program that advanced to the Final Four in both 2012 and 2013 and expects to have a long run in the NCAA Tournament. Senior midfielder Mael Corboz (10g, 3a) returns to lead the attack. Midfielders Michael Sauers (2g, 2a), Tsubasa Endoh (2g, 2a), and George Campbell (4g, 0a) and defenders Chris Odoi-Atsem and Alex Crognale also return. Sasho Cirovski knows where the voids are and has addressed them via by the top recruiting class in the country. 

#10

North Carolina

The Tar Heels lose a ton of firepower due to the graduation of forwards Andy Craven, Tyler Engel, and Rob Lovejoy and midfielder Verneri Valimaa. Sophomores Alan Winn and Zach Wright will be among those who should take up the slack. The midfield should be a team strength with the return of junior playmaker Omar Holness and seniors Raby George and Alex Olofson. The backline will feature senior back Jordan McCrary who returns from injury and senior Jonathan Campbell who has been a starter for the past three seasons. A banner recruiting class will likely contribute from the get-go.    

#11

Clemson

Clemson won the ACC Conference Tournament in 2014 for the first time since 2001. Players return who scored thirty of the thirty-eight goals the Tigers put in the back of the net last year. Clemson looks to be deep and athletic in 2015 with a solid core of experienced players returning up-top and in the midfield but they must rebuild their backline. Senior back Kyle Fisher and junior goalkeeper Andrew Tarbell provide a solid core around which to rebuild the defense.  

#12

Indiana 

Eight starters return from the 2014 team that was awarded the number five seed in the NCAA Tournament. Senior Femi Hollinger-Janzen (5g, 2a) returns up-top. Junior All-American Tanner Thompson (6g, 3a) and senior Matt Foldesy (2g, 4a) will add to the attack in the midfield. Sophomore Grant Lillard and redshirt junior Derek Creviston will anchor the backline. Junior Colin Webb who had a 0.96 gaa last year gives the Hoosiers a solid presence in goal. 

#13

Michigan State

This may prove to be an ambitious ranking for a team that has as many key gaps to fill due to graduation as the Spartans have. On the other hand team this is a program with a lot of grit. Defense has been a key ingredient at Michigan State over the past few seasons and should again be a team strength in 2015 with the return of goalkeeper Zach Bennett and center back Zach Carroll. Newcomers like forwards Hunter Barone and Ryan Sierakowski could prove to be just what the doctor ordered as a cure for the vaccum that exists on the offensive side of the ball.

#14

Charlote

Nine starters return including All-American forward Kyle Parker (9g, 7a) and midfielders Dominic Bonilla and Brandt Bronico. Senior back Biko Bradnock-Brennan and senior goalkeeper Austin Pack will anchor the defense. Charlotte is talented and no team in the country is likely to outwork them. Opening games on the road with Virginia and Coastal Carolina will be challenging.   

#15

Louisville 

It is amazing what Ken Lolla has accomplished during ten years as the Cardinals' head coach. Pre-Lolla Louisville had never earned an invite to the NCAA Tourney. Under Lolla they have earned an invite to the big dance the last eight seasons. The folks at Lynn Stadium should again have a lot to get excited about in 2015 with the return of a solid contingent of players including Andrew Brody (3g, 4a), Ben Strong (5g, 4a), Tim Kubel (7g, 5a), Romilio Hernandez (1g, 0a) and Louie Berra (0g, 2a). 

#16

California 

The Golden Bears will be a very competitive team but they will have a retooled lineup due to the graduation of a senior class that inlcuded All-Pac-12 First Team members forwards Connor Hallisey (9g,12) and Stefano Bonomo (12g, 5a) and midfielder Seth Casiple (1g, 7a). The duo of forwards Christian Thierjung (7g, 2a) and sophomore Paul Salcedo (4g, 4a) will likely be the focal point of California's offense in 2015. Redshirt sophomore Jose Carrera-Garcia (2g, 5a) is among returning midfielders. The backline led by juniors Trevor Haberkorn, Nick Lima, and Joshua Morton should be solid. Redshirt senior Alex Mangels returns to give the Golden Bears an experienced and talented presence between the pipes. 

#17

UC Irvine 

Chris Volk's first season as the head coach at UC Irvine after serving there seventeen years as an assistant coach was a productive one. The Anteaters were 16-6-3 and advanced to the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament. Volk will enter the 2015 with a solid core of returning players but will be faced with the challenge of replacing the offensive firepower provided by Cameron Iwasa (6g, 6a), Gor Kirakosyan (5g, 6a) and Dennis Martinez (6g, 1a). Senior Eduardo Calzada (7g, 4a) will likely be the Anteater's go-to guy in 2015. The midfield led by senior Mats Bjurman (2g, 5a) and redshirt junior Michael Sperber (1g, 1a) among others looks to be deep and balanced. The defense will be anchored by redshirt senior MIchael Breslin in goal and center backs Jack Birkenbeuel and Matt Tilley and back Thomas Janjigian. 

#18

Xavier

Xavier is coming off a program record fifteen win season and their first trip to the Sweet Sixteen in NCAA Tourney play. The graduation of midfielder Will Walker (7g, 9a) and Eric Osswald who was the 2014 Big East Goalkeeper of the Year leaves some big shoes to fill but a solid core returns supplemented by a very balanced recruiting class. Sophomore Matt Vasquenza (7g, 6a) and junior Jalen Brown (4g, 2a) return up-top. Senior Alex Ridsdale (5g, 4a) who has been a starter for the past three seasons returns to set the pace in the midfield along with redshirt sophomore Walker Andriot (2g, 2a) and senior Kyle Martin (0g, 5a). Super sophomore Cory Brown (3g, 3a) and junior Todd Pratzner (1g, 0a) return in the back. The Muskeeters will have a lot of new faces in 2015 so team chemistry will have an impact on the success of this team. 

#19

Syracuse

The Orange will enter the 2015 season seeking to continue the upward trend that the program has enjoyed over the past few seasons while dealing with some very key personnel losses on both sides of the ball. Syracuse will undergo a youth movement of sorts in 2015 but make no mistake about it they will have skilled athletes all over the pitch. Chris Nanco gives the Orange a proven finisher up-top. Sophomore Julian Buescher will anchor the center of the park. Redshirt junior Liam Callahan is among returning backs. Ian McIntyre has put a solid foundation in place but his young team will likely undergo a learning curve in 2015.  

#20

UMBC 

The Retrievers will enter the 2015 season without eight very talented and experienced starters from the 2014 team that advanced to the Final Four for the first time in the history of the program. UMBC will not be starting from scratch but this is a program that will be rebuilding in 2015. However the Retrievers are winners and deserving of a national ranking until someone proves otherwise. Pete Caringi has added a recruiting class that will likely hasten the rebuilding process. 

#21

Coastal Carolina

Coastal Carolina will be tested right out of the gate with games on the road with ODU, VCU, and Clemson and Charlotte at home. The Chants have some reloading to do due to replace the likes of forward Ricky Garbanzo and defenders Shawn McLaws and Uchenna Uzo but a solid core returns from a program that has established it can hold its own with anyone and Shaun Docking always has talented players on board who are eager to make an impact. Returning players include forward Sergio Camargo (6g, 5a), midfielder Louis Dargent (4g, 0a) and defenders Tommy Gudmundsson (6g, 0a ), Colin Martz, and Elis Bjornsson (3g, 7a). 

#22

Old Dominion

A solid contingent returns on both sides of the ball from the 2014 team that was 13-7-1 overall and won the Conference USA Tournament and made the program's eleventh appearance in the NCAA Tournament in the past thirteen seasons. Junior Jesse Miralrio (3g, 4a) and sophomore Tyler Edwards (3g, 1a) return up-top. Senior Ryan Condotta (5g, 1a) returns to add punch to the attack in the midfield. The return of red shirt senior midfielder Ivan Militar who missed the 2014 season due to injury is a big plus. Defense should be a team strength with goalkeeper Alex Tiesenhausen and backs Michael Nelson, David Macsicza and Nicholas Hutchinson slated to return.  

#23

Saint Louis

The Billikens have to replace five of their six top goal scorers from the 2014 team due to graduation including forwards Robert Kristo (14g, 2a) and Kinglsley Bryce (8g, 4a). However Mike McGinty may have filed that void through the addition of a recruiting class that includes transfers Vince Cicciarelli from Notre Dame and Faik Hajderovic from Evansville and freshman Nash Popovic. Returning starters include midfielders David Graydon (2g, 6a), Marco Heskamp (0g, 6a) and Filip Pavisic (1g, 3a) and defenders David Tyler (2g, 0a) and Max Karcher (1g, 1a) and goalkeeper Sascha Otte.     

#24

Akron

Nine starters return from the 2014 team that was 13-4-2 overall, won the Mid-American Conferece regular season and tournament titles, and secured the program's twenty-ninth invite to the NCAA Tournament. Junior midfielder Adam Najem (14, 4a) returns to power the attack. Senior Sean Sepe (3g, 3a) and sophomore Stuart Holthusen (4g, 4a) add an additional dimension to the offense up-top. Sophomores Jesse Garcia-Aguilar (1g, 1a) and Richie Laryea (1g, 2a) and junior Victor Souto (1g, 0a) round out what looks to be a very productive midfield. Senior Andrew Souders (1g, 3a) and junior Brad Ruhaak (1g, 0a) return in the back while redshirt senior goalkeeper Jake Fenlason who had a 0.78 goals against average last year will anchor the defense.    

#25

Penn State

The Nittany Lions roared out to a 10-0-1 record last year before going 3-6-0 in the second half of the season. Bob Warming will have a lot of talent to work with in 2015 but he also has a few noticeable gaps to plug due to the loss of the likes of All-American goalkeeper Andrew Wolverton and midfielder Owen Griffith who were four-year starters and forward Mikey Minutillo (8g, 4a). Junior forward Connor Maloney (10g, 3a), the 2014 Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, had some big time goals last year. The Nittany Lions will need multiple big games from him in 2015. Seniors playmaker Brian James (1g, 7a), Drew Klingenberg (2g, 4a), Kyle MacDonald (1g, 2a), and Brandon Savino (2g, 1a) and junior Mason Klerks are among others who have the potential to be difference makers for Penn State in 2015.

#26

Oregon State

The Beavers returned to the NCAA Tourney last year for the first time since the 2003 campaign. They will miss All-American forward Khiry Shelton but sophomores Timmy Mueller (11g, 2a) and Jordan Jones (8g, 1a) are very capable of lighting up the back of the net on a consistent basis.  Look for the Beavers to build on the momentum of the 2014 season.

#27

Ohio State

Seven starters and thirteen letterwinners return from the 2014 team that was 9-8-5 overall with a 5-3-0 mark in Big Ten play. In addition the Buckeyes will welcome a stellar recruiting class that includes forward Yaw Amankwa who transfers in from Tyler Junior College and senior goalkeeper Chris Froschauer from Dayton. Junior forward Danny Jensen (6g, 1a) returns to lead the attack up-top. Senior midfielder Zach Mason who has been a starter for the past three seasons will set the pace for the team.  Senior defender Liam Doyle returns to anchor the backline.   

#28

Northwestern

Senior forward Joey Calistri (6g, 2a) who has led Northwestern in scoring the past three seasons returns to give the Wildcats a prime time scorer up-top. Senior midfielder Cole Missimo (5g, 4a) will add another dimension to the attack. Junior Nathan Dearth and senior Henry Herrill who were starters last year return in the back. Senior Zak Allen looks to be the likely starter in goal.  

#29

Furman

Ten starters return from the 2014 team that was inconsistent at times but finished very strong down the homestretch. Junior forwards Bobby Edet (5g, 1a) and Lewis Hawke (9g, 2a) will be a tough combination for opponents to contain. A midfield that includes senior Kevin Pahl (2g, 5a) looks to be talented and deep. Senior goalkeeper Sven Lissek who had a 0.59 goals against average last year will anchor what should be a very tenacious Paladin defense that will include backs Kevin Edelmann, Eric Steber and Kyle McLagan. . 

#30

Wake Forest  

Bobby Muuss will enter his first seaon at the helm of the Demon Deacon program with ten starters back from the 2014 team that was 10-7-2 overall and earned the program a spot in the NCAA Tourney for the twelfth time in the last thirteen seasons. Wake Forest should have a high powered offense led by senior Michael Gamble (6g, 10a) and sophomore Jon Bakero (6g, 2a) up-top. A midfield that will feature juniors Ian Harkes (2g, 3a) and Jacori Hayes (1g, 6a) and finisher Ricky Greensfelder (6g, 4a) will be explosive and deep. The level of play of the defense which will include returning backs Kevin Politz, Kris Reaves and Hunter Bandy and redshirt junior goalkeeper Alec Ferrell may determine the Deacons fate in 2015. 

Others Receiving Votes: Connecticut, Dartmouth, Kentucky, Oakland, UNCW, Monmouth, Denver, Tulsa, New Mexico, UC Santa Barbara, FGCU