HIGH POINT, N.C. - The Limestone College men’s soccer team has been voted as the preseason favorites to capture the program’s first ever Conference Carolinas Regular Season Championship. The Saints have narrowly missed a share of the regular season title in each of the past two seasons, falling short of Lees-McRae by a single point in the final standings on each occasion. Lees-McRae and Coker round out the top three while Pfeiffer University checked in at #6.
LC returns 10 veterans from the 2010 squad that finished 11-6-1 overall and 7-2 in league play, including a pair of All-Conference selections in senior Mike Stephenson and sophomore Jack Bailey. Although the 2010 season ended abruptly on penalty kicks in the first round of the Conference Carolinas Tournament, the Saints boasted one of the nation’s top offenses last season as they ranked eighth with 2.72 goals per match. On the season, Limestone outscored opponents 49-26 but was especially dominant at home as they outpaced visitors 26-4 in the scoring column.
Entering the 2011 campaign, the Blue and Gold will have only four upperclassmen returning from a season ago. However, the Saints will look to five junior transfers with high levels of collegiate experience to fill the void while also depending on a very seasoned and talented sophomore class. Additionally, Limestone’s freshmen class features a bevy of domestic and international talent.
Lees-McRae College finds themselves under new leadership once again this season, with three-time All-American Lee Squires taking the reins after leading the Bobcats to four consecutive league titles as a player. The Bobcats are coming off from last year’s Conference Carolinas Championship title along with their fourth straight regular season title ending the year at 13-5-3 overall and 7-1-1 in league play.
Lees-McRae is certain to feature several new faces on the pitch, welcoming 15 newcomers into the fold while returning seven players from last year’s squad. Seniors David Palmer, Luke Duffy, and Luke Staats return to guide the Bobcats into a new era from the second spot in the preseason poll.
Coker College returns a large portion of last season’s Conference Carolinas Tournament Finals team, including Second Team All-Conference and All-Tournament selection Rommel Fondin and All-Tournament selection James Sweeney. The Cobras will be looking to make a third straight appearance in the Conference Carolinas Tournament Finale after finishing the 2010 season with a record of 7-7-5 overall and 3-4-2 league record.
A young squad, the Cobras are led by juniors Fondin and Sweeney. Fondin returns to the lead the offense and Sweeney will lead the defense. Fondin was the team’s second leading scorer with four goals and two assists for 10 points last season, while Sweeney led the defense as the starting goalkeeper recording 69 saves with six shutouts.
Erskine finished fourth in the poll with Belmont Abbey fifth followed by Pfeiffer, Queens, King, Barton, Mount Olive, and North Greenville respectively rounding-out the poll standings.
Conference Carolinas Men’s Soccer Coaches Preseason Poll (# of First Place Votes in Parenthesis)
1. Limestone - (6) 94
2. Lees-McRae - (4) 87
3. Coker - 72
4. Erskine - (1) 69
5. Belmont Abbey - 67
6. Pfeiffer - 62
7. Queens - 49
8. King - 45
9. Barton - 27
10. Mount Olive - 18
11. North Greenville - 15