KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Fresh off their first-ever NAIA Men’s Soccer National Championship, the RedHawks of Martin Methodist (Tenn.) claim the No. 1 ranking in the 2014 Coaches’ Preseason Top 25 poll, the national office announced Tuesday. The RedHawks gathered 19 of a possible 21 first-place votes to tally 589 total points. This is the second all-time No. 1 spot in school history for Martin Methodist and the second-straight top ranking.
Martin Methodist returns nearly all of its firepower from a team that finished last season with a 19-2-2 overall mark and 8-2-1 league record. National Championship Most Outstanding Player and senior goalkeeper Stephen Lunney headlines the nucleus of returners. He allowed only 16 goals in 2,148 minutes (0.67 GAA) during the season. Joining Lunney in the backfield is NAIA Second Team All-American Daniel Dunleavy. The RedHawks enter 2014 with the longest unbeaten active streak in the NAIA with a 13-gamer (12-0-1). Martin Methodist opens up the season at home against Talladega (Ala.) on Aug. 30.
Fellow Southern States Athletic Conference (SSAC) member, Auburn Montgomery (Ala.) holds at the No. 2 position from the 2013 postseason edition. With 566 total points, the Warhawks were the national runner-up falling 2-1 in overtime to Martin Methodist on Dec. 7. Regular-season champions in the SSAC, Auburn Montgomery welcomes back NAIA Second Team All-American Sebastian Wladyko.
With its 12th-straight top-five mention, No. 3 Lindsey Wilson (Ky.) posted 549 total points. The Blue Raiders are led by 25-year head coach Ray Wells, who owns more than 430 wins. Lindsey Wilson advanced to the semifinal round in the 2013 national championship.
No. 4 Ashford (Iowa), a national semifinalist a year ago, checks in with 534 points and one first-place nod. The Saints were 16-4-2 last season and expect back three All-Association of Independent (A.I.I.) performers and transfer Adam Wood from Midland (Neb.). Wood was the 2013 Great Plains Athletic Conference Offensive Player of the Year.
Oklahoma Wesleyan completes the list of top-five teams with the No. 5 ranking and 516 points. The Eagles ended their season in double overtime fashion in the national quarterfinals to Auburn Montgomery.
Within the poll, five squads improved two spots for the best movement upward. No. 25 Belhaven (Miss.) tumbled the farthest with a 17-position change from the postseason poll.
No. 14 William Carey (Miss.) headlines the list of three newcomers. The Crusaders, who finished second in the competitive SSAC standings last year at 12-5-1 overall, returns first team all-conference performer Andri Jonsson. William Carey was the last team to defeat No. 1 Martin Methodist back on Oct. 18, 2013. No. 22 Bethel (Tenn.) and No. 24 Biola (Calif.) are the other newcomers – as both programs were ranked during the 2013 campaign.
The SSAC claims the most teams in the Top 25 among all conferences/independents/unaffiliated groupings: Martin Methodist, Auburn Montgomery, William Carey, Bethel and Belhaven. The Heart of America Athletic Conference was next with four teams boasting a position. Fourteen of the 21 conferences/independents/unaffiliated groups were represented this week.
The poll was voted upon by a panel of head coaches representing each of the conferences, independents and unaffiliated groups. The first regular-season Top 25 Poll will be announced on Sept. 23.
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NOTES: (All information dates back to 2000) Martin Methodist (Tenn.) is trying to become the first program ranked No. 1 in the preseason to win the national title in the same season since Lindsey Wilson (Ky.) did so in 2001… No. 13 Grand View (Iowa), who advanced to the second round of the 2013 National Championship, earned the remaining first-place vote… Six conferences landed at least two teams in the preseason Top 25, led by the five from the Southern States Athletic Conference… In the final eight polls of 2013, the SSAC and the Heart of America Athletic Conference tied for the most teams in the Top 25 with four teams each… Overall, the SSAC has been the power conference in the NAIA with 47-straight polls in which the league has tied or placed the most teams in the Top 25 poll – the last time the conference did not tie or have the highest amount of schools was Sept. 28, 2010… There were an NAIA-record seven different schools to be ranked No. 1 during the 2013 season: Martin Methodist, Belhaven (Miss.), Mobile (Ala.), Hastings (Neb.), Lindsey Wilson, Rio Grande (Ohio) and Grand View (Iowa)… Lindsey Wilson is the longest consecutively-ranked active school at 84-straight polls, dating back to the 2007 Preseason Top 25 Poll (Aug. 15, 2007)… Rio Grande is next in line with 77-consecutive rankings, followed by Belhaven at 50 and Missouri Valley at 44... Lindsey Wilson boasts the most all-time No. 1 rankings with 47, followed by Rio Grande with 41, Bethel (Tenn.) with 11 and Hastings with 10... Overall, 20 different teams have claimed the No. 1 spot in the poll… Since 2000, just two teams have spent the entire season ranked No. 1—Bethel in 2009 and Rio Grande in 2004.
2014 NAIA Men’s Soccer Coaches’ Preseason Top 25 Poll (Aug. 19)
|RANK||LAST WEEK^||SCHOOL (1ST PLACE VOTES)||2013 RECORD||TOTAL POINTS|
|1||1||Martin Methodist (Tenn.) (19)||19-2-2||589|
|2||2||Auburn Montgomery (Ala.)||15-7-2||566|
|3||3||Lindsey Wilson (Ky.)||17-4-2||549|
|4||4||Ashford (Iowa) (1)||16-4-2||534|
|7||6||Rio Grande (Ohio)||16-3-3||488|
|11||12||MidAmerica Nazarene (Kan.)||14-5-3||393|
|12||13||Grand View (Iowa) (1)||19-3-0||364|
|14||RV||William Carey (Miss.)||12-5-1||328|
|17||17||Science & Arts (Okla.)||15-5-0||293|
|20||22||St. Thomas (Texas)||13-4-2||211|
|23||24||Rocky Mountain (Mont.)||14-4-1||132|
Others Receiving Votes: Corban (Ore.) 88; Tennessee Wesleyan 85; Cardinal Stritch (Wis.) 67; Embry-Riddle (Ariz.) 66; Park (Mo.) 57; Campbellsville (Ky.) 43; Texas at Brownsville 40; Northwestern Ohio 36; Bryan (Tenn.) 26; Wayland Baptist (Texas) 23; McPherson (Kan.) 19; Olivet Nazarene (Ill.) 12; SCAD Savannah (Ga.) 9; Northwood (Fla.) 3; Marymount (Calif.) 3; Bellevue (Neb.) 3.
^ 2013 NAIA Men’s Soccer Coaches Postseason Top 25 Poll (Dec. 11, 2013)