Conference Preview: Big South, SoCon

Conference Preview: Big South, SoCon
by J.R. Eskilson
August 10, 2015

Big South

Conference Tournament Champion: Coastal Carolina
Attacking Player of the Year: Ricky Garbanzo, Coastal Carolina
Defensive Player of the Year: Shawn McLaws, Coastal Carolina
Freshman of the Year: Bradley Farias, Campbell
Coach of the Year: Marc Reeves, Radford

Team (Overall, conference record)
Radford (12-5-3, 8-1)
Coastal Carolina (16-6-1, 7-1-1)
High Point (10-8-2, 6-2-1)
Winthrop (13-4-2, 6-2-1)
Liberty (11-6-1, 6-3)
UNC Asheville (5-9-3, 3-4-2)
Longwood (4-14-1, 3-6)
Campbell (5-13, 2-7)
Gardner-Webb (3-13-1, 1-7-1)
Presbyterian (1-14, 0-9) 

Radford won the regular season crown in the Big South with a strong defensive performance. The Highlanders finished fourth in the conference in goals scored with only 32, but they were top of the table in goals against average with 0.82. Sophomore Aitor Pouseu Blanco had a breakout season last year in goal for Radford. He was one of three Redford players to make First Team All-Conference. Junior defender Jo Vetle Rimstad is another one to watch for Redford this fall, as the Highlanders look to make the NCAA Tournament. 

Coastal Carolina came up short in the quest for the regular season crown, but nabbed the automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament with a win over Redford in the conference tournament. The Chanticleers have consistently been one of the most enjoyable programs to watch for the past few seasons. A fluid, dynamic attack has provided the perfect landscape for a number of talented midfielders to step up and dominate the conference. Ricky Garbanzo was the latest in 2014, but he will be far from the last. Sergio Camargo is the one to watch for Coastal Carolina this fall. 

High Point handed the keys to the castle to E.J. O’Keeffe last month. After a third place finish in 2014, there’s reason to be optimistic about the future of the program. High Point’s pressing need will be replacing Mamadee Nyepon’s production in 2015. Sophomore Ebe Kudolo had a strong rookie season last fall. Defender Austin Yearwood has displayed glimpses in the past that he could be one of the best in the region. 

The Winthrop 2015 is the swan song for head coach Rich Posipanko. He announced in May that he was stepping down after his 27th season in charge. Posipanko could leave with a bang. The Eagles squad is talented and full of promise. Jordi Lluch and Max Hasenstab are among the best in their positions for the conference. 


Conference Tournament Champion: Furman
Player of the Year: Joao Ramalho, East Tennessee State
Goalkeeper of the Year: Greg Ranjitsingh, Mercer
Coach of the Year: Brad Ruzzo, Mercer
Freshman of the Year: Will Bagrou, Mercer

Team (Overall, conference record)
Mercer (14-7, 8-2)
Wofford (11-6-1, 7-2-1)
Furman (12-5-5, 5-4-1)
UNC Greensboro (6-12-2, 5-4-1)
East Tennessee State (7-10-1, 3-6-1)
VMI(m) (1-17-1, 0-10)

Mercer took the conference by storm last season. The Bears ripped and roared their way to an eight-win campaign, but came up short in the conference tournament. The Bears hardly look like a one-hit wonder though. Forward Will Bagrou was tremendous in his debut campaign. As long as he avoids a sophomore slump, the Bears should be set for another shot at the crown in 2015. New addition Alexander Andersson also looks like a player to watch this fall in the Southern Conference. 

Wofford is going through a change in 2015. The coaching staff brought in 14 new players for the 2015 season, but the eight seniors on the roster are still trying to make another go at a run for the conference crown. Seniors Nestor Jaramillo and Connor Davis are two to watch on the Terriers squad. 

The obstacle standing in the way of everyone else in the conference is Furman goalkeeper Sven Lissek. He’s been a stud for the Paladins for the past two seasons. As a senior, Lissek is the favorite take home the top conference honors for his position. 


Conference Tournament Champion: Denver
Offensive Player of the Year: Johnny Chavez, Oral Roberts
Defensive Player of the Year: Charlie Bales, Western Illinois
Goalkeeper of the Year: Yves Dietrich, Western Illinois
Newcomer of the Year: Uriel Macias, IUPUI
Coach of the Year: Jason Mims, Nebraska-Omaha 

Team (Overall, conference record)
Denver (11-8-1, 3-2-1)
Nebraska-Omaha (10-5-2, 3-2-1)
Western Illinois (9-7-3, 3-2-1)
Oral Roberts (8-8-2, 3-2-1)
IPFW(m) (6-9-4, 3-3)
IUPUI (5-8-3, 2-3-1)
Eastern Illinois (3-13-1, 1-4-1)

The Summit League was a mess in 2014. There were four teams that finished with the same record in conference play. The tight race at the end was only a precursor to another tournament title for Denver. The Pioneers defeated Western Illinois 3-1 in the final and captured the automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament. With six starters lost from last year’s team, Denver will need returned like Jordan Schweitzer, Reagan Dunk, and Kortne Ford to step up and fill the void. 

Building a program from the grond up is not easy, but Omaha looks to be on the cusp of breaking though with the young squad. The Mavericks bring back Mark Moulton and Felipe da Silva in their hunt for a berth to the NCAA Tournament. The two First Team All-Conference players will be ones to watch this fall. 

Western Illinois came up just short of a berth to the NCAA Tournament last year. This season, the Leathernecks will need to address the goalkeeper position. Yves Dietrich has moved onto the professional game and there are only two goalkeepers on the roster for the fall. Freshmen Sam Copp and Bruce Corrie will be battling it out for the minutes in goal. 

With 13 new faces on the squad for 2015, Oral Roberts could look like a completely different crew this fall. Former U.S. U17 Men’s National Team midfielder Tarik Salkicic is in his final season in college and could be one to look out for on Oral Roberts. 

Sun Belt

Conference Tournament Champion: Hartwick
Offensive Player of the Year: Cristian Marcel, NJIT
Defensive Player of the Year: Marko Drljic, NJIT
Freshman of the Year: Thor Svienbjornsson, Georgia Southern
Coach of the Year: John Scott, Hartwick 

Team (Overall, conference record)
Hartwick (6-9-4, 3-1-1)
Georgia Southern (8-9, 3-2)
Georgia State (8-10, 3-2)
Appalachian State (7-8-3, 1-2-2)
Howard (2-15-2, 1-3-1)

Hartwick did not win many games last year, but they won the ones that mattered the most. The Hawks advanced to the NCAA Tournament and picked up some valuable experience on the way. The 2015 edition should look roughly the same with only four seniors on last fall’s roster. The Hawks might be the team to beat in the Sun Belt. 

Georgia Southern checked in at No. 2 in its first season in the conference last fall. The Eagles brought in 10 freshmen for this season to help improve the roster and take a run at qualifying for the NCAA Tournament. The Eagles also bring back 2014 Freshman of the Year Thor Svjenbjornsson for his sophomore campaign. 

Brett Surrency and his Georgia State squad are trying to make a run at the conference title as well. Surrency is in his fifth season at the helm with the Panthers and continues to pull in strong recruiting classes. 

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