KANSAS CITY, Mo. --- The United Soccer Coaches have ranked Tusculum 23rd in the 2017 NCAA Division II Men's Soccer national preseason poll, released Thursday.
United Soccer Coaches Men's Division II Top 25
The Pioneers are coming off a stellar 2016 season that saw the program win its record sixth South Atlantic Conference championship tournament title, and second in three years, while finishing with an overall record of 16-4-0. Tusculum was ranked as high as seventh in last year's United Soccer Coaches poll (then called the National Soccer Coaches Association of America) before finishing 24th in the final rankings.
Tusculum returns five starters and seven letterwinners from last year's squad for head coach Allen Vital, who will begin his seventh season on the sidelines of his alma mater with a 56-42-11 record at Tusculum and 232 career victories in 20 years as a college head coach. Last year, the Pioneers earned their first NCAA Division II tournament berth since 2008 after finishing in second place in the SAC with a 9-2-0 regular season record. Tusculum then defeated Mars Hill, Coker and Lincoln Memorial to claim the conference tournament championship.
Defending NCAA Division II and South Atlantic Conference champion Wingate earned the top spot in the preseason rankings, followed by Charleston (W.Va.), Rockhurst, UC-San Diego and Adelphi. Wingate is the lone ranked opponent on the Pioneers' schedule, and the teams will meet in the regular season finale at Pioneer Field on Saturday, Oct. 28. Two other opponents, Young Harris (Sept. 6) and Lenoir-Rhyne (Sept. 16), are among five schools that also received votes in the poll.
The Pioneers will open the 2017 season on Saturday, Sept. 2 at home against Barton, kicking off a 16-match schedule that features 10 contests against SAC opponents and three contests against NCAA Tournament qualifiers.