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MAAC, MAC, MVC men’s conference previews

Article Written by Travis Clark
Published: August 26, 2015

MAC

Conference Tournament Champion: Akron
Player of the Year: Andy Bevin, West Virginia
Freshman of the Year: Joey Piatczyc, West Virginia
Coach of the Year: Marlon LeBlanc, West Virginia

Teams (2014 overall, conference record)
Akron (13-6-2, 4-1)
West Virginia (11-7-1, 3-1-1)
Bowling Green (14-6-1, 2-2-1)
Western Michigan (8-7-4, 2-2-1)
Buffalo (5-10-2, 1-2-2)
Northern Illinois (3-9-5, 0-4-1)

A large contingent of Akron’s 2014 side is back and looking to rule the MAC once again. Despite being swept in the postseason individual awards, the Zips won the regular season and conference tournament. With Adam Najem in the heart of midfield once again, pulling the strings for the team’s offense, it should be a prolific attack as Sean Sepe, Stuart Holthusen look to get on the end of chances created. Richie Laryea and Victor Souto are also key players to watch out for the Zips in the middle of the park. A demanding schedule that features Maryland, Georgetown and UCLA will have the Zips battle-tested for postseason play.

The biggest challenge for second place finishers West Virginia is replacing talisman Andy Bevin. His 13 goals and 8 assists led the team in both categories (tied for assists with freshman Joey Piatczyc), and will obviously be missed. Plenty of potential contributors remain, with Jamie Merriam, Kiwi Ryan Cain and Piatczyc all more than capable of shoulder more in the final third.

After a strong campaign in 2014, Bowling Green has its sights set on challenging Akron and West Virginia at the summit of the MAC. Pat Flynn’s breakout had a lot to do with that, as he scored 14 goals and added four assists in 21 games. If he can add to that the Falcolns can dream big.

Is a change of fortune on the horizon for last year’s bottom three? Every starter is back for Western Michigan on a roster that features 10 seniors, so experience will be at a premium. Buffalo is coming off a trip to England earlier in the year that could provide a nice experience boost for players like First Team All-MAC forward Russ Cicerone.

MAAC

Conference Tournament Champion: Monmouth
Coach of the Year: Eric Da Costa, Quinnipiac
Offensive Player of the Year: Ignacio Maganto, Iona College
Defensive Player of the Year: Matt Jeffrey, Monmouth
Goalkeeper of the Year: Borja Angoitia, Quinnipiac
Rookie of the Year: Florian Valot, Rider

Teams (2014 overall, conference record)
Quinnipiac (10-4-5, 7-0-3)
Iona College (9-7-3, 6-3-1)
Rider (9-7-2, 6-4)
Monmouth (11-4-6, 4-1-5)
Siena College (10-8-2, 5-3-2)
Fairfield (8-5-7, 4-2-4)
Canisius (9-6-3, 4-4-2)
Marist (7-7-4, 3-5-2)
Niagara (5-11-3, 2-6-2)
Saint Peter’s(m) (4-14, 2-8)
Manhattan (2-12-2, 1-8-1)

Despite a fourth place regular season finish, Monmouth put together the requisite conference tournament run to punch a ticket to the NCAAs. Goalkeeper Eric Klenofsky is only a junior, and the 6-foot-6 standout in goal should make the Hawks formidable once again. Forward Dave Nigro provides valuable experience up front, while a promising crop of freshmen adds another element.

Voted to finish second in the preseason poll, Quinnipiac fashioned an unbeaten slate in conference play last season, welcoming back James Doig in the midfield and defender Tobias Esche.

With star Ignacio Maganto now with the LA Galaxy, Iona College finds itself in need of a new source of offense. Jordan Scarlett gives the team a building block at the back as it works to retool and reload for the upcoming campaign.

Europeans Florian Valot (France) and Christian Flath (Germany) give Rider reason for hope after a third place finish in the conference. The former was the MAAC Rookie of the Year, while Flath was joined as a unanimous First Team All-MAAC selection along with New Jersey native Sonimi Halliday.

Some intriguing pieces are back for Siena College, including Red Bulls Academy product Alexander Tejera, who was a dominant force up front at times, scoring six goals in 2014. Also among the returning is Danilo Markovic, who will anchor the team’s back line.

MVC

Conference Tournament Champion: SIUE
Player of the Year: Christian Volesky, SIUE
Defensive Player of the Year: Matt Polster, SIUE
Goalkeeper of the Year: Tim Dobrowolski, Loyola-Chicago
Freshman of the Year: Kyle Thomson, Loyola-Chicago
Coaching Staff of the Year: Loyola-Chicago

Teams (2014 overall, conference record)
Missouri State (9-5-4, 4-0-2)
SIUE (8-9-4, 4-1-1)
Evansville (6-11-1, 4-2-0)
Drake (5-11-3, 3-3)
Loyola-Chicago (8-6-5, 2-2-2)
Bradley (9-11, 1-5)
Central Arkansas (3-13-1, 0-5-1)

SIUE may have finished under .500 overall last season, but they put it together when it counted, winning its first-ever conference tournament crown. The challenge this year is to now repeat with a new head coach, after Mario Sanchez took over the program in January 2015. Eight starters are back, although the team must replace very important players with the departure of Matt Polster and Christian Volesky to the professional ranks.

Five starters are returning to Missouri State after back-to-back regular season conference tournament. A number of seniors are set to play critical roles, including Emmerich Hoegg, James Thomas and Brandon Barbero.

Also under a new coach this season is Evansville, as Marshall Ray was named head coach at the end of 2014. He’ll lean on forward Mark Anthony Gonzalez (6 goals) in the attack, although the Purple Aces bring just two starters back to this year’s squad.

The return of Alex Bartlett, Mueng Sunday and James Wypych gives Drake a rather formidable spine to work with in the upcoming season. A come-from-behind preseason defeat of Wisconsin shows that the Bulldogs are certain to be a tough out this season.

Expected to climb the table this fall, Loyola-Chicago brings back eight starters, including key sophomores such as Elliot Collier, Kyle Thomson and Brody Kraussel. Collier earned MVC Freshman of the Year honors, and will be an important piece as the Ramblers look for success in 2015.

 
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