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Big South, CAA 2014 men’s previews

Article Written by Will Parchman
Published: August 26, 2014

 Big South Conference

Brief conference bio:

2013 conference tournament champion: Coastal Carolina
Attacking Player of the Year: Pedro Ribeiro, Coastal Carolina
Defensive Player of the Year: Shawn McLaws, Coastal Carolina
Freshman of the Year: Max Hasenstab, Winthrop
Coach of the Year: Jon Atkinson, Longwood

Teams (2013 overall, conference record)

1. Coastal Carolina (19-4, 9-1)
2. High Point (8-8-3, 6-2-2)
3. Longwood (7-9-4, 6-3-1)
4. Gardner-Webb (9-8-1, 6-4)
5. Radford (9-7-4, 5-3-2)
6. Campbell (5-10-4, 5-4-1)
7. Winthrop (11-7-1, 5-5)
8. Liberty (11-9, 5-5)
9. UNC Asheville (5-14, 2-8)
10. Presbyterian (3-15, 1-9)

The only change in the Big South this year is the absence of VMI, which leapt to the Southern Conference after finishing a game out of the cellar at 2-8 in conference last season. Otherwise, the gang’s all here, and it looks as though they’re again chasing Coastal Carolina. The Chanticleers were the cream of the conference last year by a wide margin, and a run to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tourney echoed their successful regular season.

Coastal has to cope with the loss of Pedro Ribeiro, the conference’s best player by miles, but it has enough returning to make that possible. Forward Ricky Garbanzo is among the nation’s best, and last year’s defender of the year Shawn McLaws returns for his senior season. Coastal’s reached the Sweet 16 two years running, and it’d be tough to bet against them at least winning the league again in 2014. Their only loss last season was a shock 1-0 defeat to UNC Asheville, which had just two league wins and was picked to finish ninth again in 2014.

Winthrop and High Point tied on preseason points for second place in the conference poll, though based on last year everything behind the Chanticleers could be a jumbled mess again. High Point is strong up the spine with keeper Kody Palmer, defender Austin Yearwood, midfielder Pat Shelton and striker Mamadee Nyepon all returning. Winthrop will look to keep pace with the forward partnership of Max Hasenstab, last year’s freshman of the year, and Achille Obougou, arguably the best one-two punch up top in the league.

Longwood was the league’s surprise last year, and they’ll have to find a way to replace impact midfielder Philip van Berkom in addition to Ben Ferrell and Zach Crandall. Leading scorer Anthony Ugorji is the only player back who finished in the team’s top four in goals last year, so his workload will be heavy. Campbell should be improved with impact striker Jhuvon Francis returning for his senior year, while Liberty, Radford and Gardner-Webb should all be vying for spots in the top half of the league. If last season was any indication, this should be a multi-horse race for the No. 2 seed in the conference tournament.

Colonial Athletic Association 

Brief conference bio:

2013 conference tournament champion: Drexel
Player of the Year: Chris Griesbsch, Hofstra
Rookie of the Year: Guillermo Delgado, Delaware
Coach of the Year: Doug Hess, Drexel

Teams (2013 overall, conference record) 

1. Drexel (9-8-4, 4-1-2)
2. UNC Wilmington (9-6-2, 4-2-1)
3. William & Mary (11-5-3, 4-2-1)
4. Delaware (14-5-1, 4-3)
5. Northeastern (6-9-3, 3-3-1)
6. Hofstra (8-7-3, 2-3-2)
7. College of Charleston (4-11-1, 2-4-1)
8. James Madison (6-10-1, 1-6)
Elon (15-5-3, 4-2)*

*Represents Southern Conference record

The CAA grew by one in the offseason with the addition of Elon, which makes the league deeper overnight. The Phoenix won the Southern Conference three consecutive years before making the leap here, and they return enough talent from a 15-win squad to earn a No. 4 rank in the preseason conference poll. Whether it’s enough to upset the returning power balance at the top remains to be seen.

Drexel continued its upward march last season by winning its second consecutive regular season title and its first ever tournament crown. Drexel is 12-2-3 in the CAA over the last two seasons, but there may be a drop-off this season with the loss of twin midfield pillars Nathan Page and Ken Tribbett along with defender Tal Biblil. Much will be expected of returning seniors Robert Liberatore and Michele Pataia, but it’s hard not to envision Delaware stepping into the spotlight Drexel's occupied for the last two years in 2014.

The Blue Hens return nine starters from a 14-win team, none more heralded than reigning freshman of the year Guillermo Delgado, who emerged as one of the most vicious strikers in the nation last year. Fellow Spaniards Borja Barbero (GK) and Ignacio Martin (D) lead the most talented team in the conference. If Delaware doesn’t win the league, it won’t be for lack of ability. Delgado is a live dark horse Hermann Trophy candidate.

Hofstra will feel the loss of Chris Griesbsch, last year’s conference player of the year, which means Maid Memic’s load as the team’s top returning striker increases. UNC Wilmington brings back a solid complement of talent and should expect to compete with the league’s big dogs. Defender Jacob VanCompernolle is among the league’s best, while striker Colin Bonner and midfielder David Sizemore are both solid. William & Mary should also be vying for a respectable seed in the conference tourney with a talented midfield and forward line returning, including 2013 first-team all-conference player Marcus Luster.

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