NORCROSS, Ga. ---- The Southern States Athletic Conference recently released its preseason rankings, and the Auburn University at Montgomery men's soccer team has been projected to finish second. The Warhawks received 122 points and two first-place votes in the poll, which is selected by the coaches in the conference.
Defending conference champions Southern Poly was ranked first with 136 points and six first-place votes. The Hornets finished last season with a record of 17-3-2 (9-2-1 SSAC), advancing to the quarterfinals of the NAIA tournament. William Carey also received 122 points, as the Crusaders shared the No. 2 ranking with AUM.
The Warhawks are coming off of a season in which the team compiled a 12-5-4 record overall (8-2-2 SSAC). AUM just missed out on an NAIA National Championship berth, falling in penalty kicks to Southern Poly in the conference tournament championship match.
Twelve players return from that AUM team, as it attempts to return to the NAIA tournament for the first time since 2007. Should the Warhawks reach the semifinals of the SSAC tournament, they will have a home-field advantage, as the matches will be played at the newly-built YMCA Emory Folmar Soccer Complex in Montgomery.
Junior goalkeeper Vignir Johannesson will look to build on a season in which he registered a 12-4-4 record with a 1.44 GAA. Johannesson finished with 72 saves and 3.5 shutouts, and he received Second-Team All-Conference honors for his efforts.
Up front, the team returns senior forward Angel Gonzalez. He finished second in points last season, contributing seven goals and five assists over 20 games played (13 starts).
The Warhawks will also bring back several key performers from midfield. Sophomores Zack Chanthongphio and Elvar Sigurdsson both had impressive debut seasons, combining for 32 starts and 13 points. Chanthongphio's performance earned him a spot on the SSAC All-Freshman team. Junior Christian Holthaus also returns after making 19 starts last year.
Defensively, Head Coach Wulf Koch will look for leadership from senior Matias Aristegui and junior Taian Souza. The pair combined for 27 starts in 2011, with Aristegui adding one goal and two assists. Koch will expect additional support from the program's 10 new recruits, six of which are defenders.
The SSAC releases a weekly updated poll once the season begins. The NAIA will release its Preseason Coaches' Top 25 on Aug. 14.
2012 SSAC Men's Preseason Soccer Poll:
1. Southern Poly (6) 136
2. AUM (2) 122
3. William Carey (2) 122
4. Mobile (2) 116
5. Belhaven 91
6. Lee 87
7. Southern Wesleyan 67
8. Spring Hill 63