This year’s Southern Conference championship race promises to be a tight battle. Defending regular season champions UNC-Greensboro can be good again, and conference tournament winners Elon will be a strong presence also, but the Furman Paladins return a very strong lineup and may be the preseason favorites.
Brief Conference Bio:
2011 Regular Season Champions: UNC Greensboro
2011 Tournament Champions: Elon
Players of the Year: Coleton Henning, Furman; Luigi Clendening, Georgia Southern
Freshman of the Year: Walker Zimmerman, Furman
Coach of the Year: Matt Nelson, Appalachian State
Team (Overall/conference record)
Walker Zimmerman and Nicky McKain return in the backline while frontrunners Coleton Henning and Martin Ontiveros lead the attack. Jacob Brown, Danny Hojaij, Clint Ritter and Michael Gandier also return.
College of Charleston (5-8-5/1-3-3)
Ralph Lundy’s Cougars had a tough 2011, but the transfer of midfielder Sam Redmond from Wake Forest and returnees Dean Brinkman, Sean de Silva, Anthony Kattreh, Francis Twohig and goalkeeper Kees Heemskerk will help put them back on the right track.
UNC Greensboro (10-8-2/5-1-1)
Justin Maullin enters his second season at the Spartans’ helm and has plenty of reason for optimism.
His three leading scorers, Hakan Ilhan, Austin Miller and Oddur Gudmundson are all back. Goalkeeper Peyton Ford and defender Aaron Reifschneider also return.
Darren Powell’s Phoenix will show that their conference tournament run in 2011 was no fluke.
The explosive Chris Thomas will lead the forward line, while Matt Wescoe, Austin Dunker and Gabe Latigue will also be key for the squad.
Appalachian State (10-5-4/3-2-2)
Matt Nelson’s Mountaineers could be a real threat. Lee Williams leads the back line, while Sekani Sinclair and goalkeeper Danny Free are also back.
Georgia Southern (8-8-1/4-3-0)
Luigi Clendening is gone, but Kevin Kennedy’s Eagles return top players such as Hunter Norton, Witt Carlisle and Drew Ruggles.
Matt Spear’s Wildcats didn’t have a go-to goals scorer last season, but 8 players had either 2 or 3 goals in a balanced attack.
Leading returnees include Brian McGue, Gabe Rivera and defenders Max Riehemann and John Pace.
Ralph Polson’s Terriers had a tough 2011 but are looking to improve behind the returning experience of leading scorer Alex Hutchins, Carlos Dominque-Gonzalez, Dennis Moore and Turner Almond.
Freshman Nestor Jaramillo could be a revelation in the league.