The University of Mary Hardin-Baylor men’s soccer team was picked to defend their 2017 title in the American Southwest Conference’s Preseason Poll, released Thursday. The Cru totaled 298 points and 19 first-place votes in balloting of ASC coaches and sports information directors.
UT Dallas was picked second with 275 points and five first-place votes while Concordia Texas rounded out the top three with 226 points. Hardin-Simmons was chosen fourth with 216 points and one first-place vote, McMurry was selected fifth with 194 points and Ozarks came in sixth with 181 points and one first-place vote. Belhaven was the seventh selection with 125 points while Sul Ross State, who will compete in their first season in 2018, was voted eighth with 120 points. East Texas Baptist’s 113 points put them in ninth, followed by Howard Payne in 10th with 108, LeTourneau in 11th with 93 and Louisiana College in 12th with 53. UT Tyler will also compete in ASC play but is ineligible for the championship as they reclassify to Division II.
Senior defender Caleb Vandergriff was voted Preseason Defensive Player of the Year and named to the Preseason Players to Watch list. Vandergriff earned two all-American awards last season and is the reigning ASC Defensive Player of the Year. He started in all 21 games for the Cru, anchoring a back line that shutout 10 opponents and helped the Cru advance to the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA Tournament. Lucas Pereira, a senior midfielder from UT Tyler was voted the Preseason Offensive Player of the Year.
Senior defender Steven Dang and junior midfielder Martin Lopez joined Vandergriff on the Players to Watch list. Dang, a Plano, Texas (West H.S.), native, was a First Team All-ASC selection a season ago and heavily contributed to the back line. Lopez, a Hutto, Texas (East View H.S.), native, was also a First Team All-ASC selection in 2017 as he played 1,293 minutes in the midfield, scoring three goals and adding two assists.
UMHB finished the 2017 season with a 17-3-1 record and 10-1 mark in conference play. The Cru earned the program’s first ASC title and is the highest advancing ASC team in the NCAA Tournament. UMHB is currently ranked No. 16 and will open the 2018 season on Sunday, September 2nd in a 1 p.m. match against the University of Dallas.