Spartans tabbed as SoCon favorite; Five named preseason all-conference
Courtesy Southern Conference Media Relations
SPARTANBURG, S.C. – The Southern Conference men's soccer coaches have selected UNCG as the preseason favorite to win the league crown in 2011 while five Spartans were selected to the 11-player preseason all-conference team.
UNCG, which finished in a three-way tie for the league regular season title last year and also won the conference tournament, received six of eight first-place votes and 47 total points. Head coach Justin Maullin returns for his second season on the bench and boasts eight returning starters.
Highlighting the Spartans' all-league selections is forward Hakan Ilhan who paced the SoCon with 12 goals and 31 points a season ago. The junior is joined on the list by midfielders Fannar Arnarsson and Brian Graham and defenders Mahdi Ali and Aaron Reifschneider.
Furman, which along with College of Charleston claimed a share of the regular season championship in 2010, was predicted to finish second this season. The Paladins received a single first-place nod and 41 overall points while defender Walker Jernigan was honored by the coaches as a preseason all-conference pick.
College of Charleston grabbed the final first-place tally and 38 points to take the third slot. The Cougars, which became the sixth different SoCon team in the past six seasons to claim at least a share of the regular season championship in 2010, also had four players on the preseason team.
Forward Andy Craven and midfielder Sean de Silva were selected, as were teammates Shawn Ferguson, a defender, and Kees Heemskerk, a goalkeeper.
Elon (29 points) landed in the fourth spot in the balloting, followed by Appalachian State (24), Davidson (18), Georgia Southern (15) and Wofford (12).
Also selected to the preseason all-conference team was Elon junior forward Chris Thomas, who in 2010 became the first player in SoCon history to follow a Freshman of the Year season by earning Player of the Year honors the next year.
Coaches were not permitted to vote for their own team or players in the balloting.
UNCG's five preseason all-SoCon selections marks the most since the Spartans also had five chosen in 2005. Furman's six honorees in 2002 remains the league's all-time high.
The 2011 regular season begins on Friday, August 26 with three of the league's eight teams in action. The 2011 SoCon Men's Soccer Championship will feature all eight teams with the final four facing off in Boone, N.C. on Nov. 11 and 13.
2011 Men's Soccer Preseason Coaches' Poll
1. UNCG (6) 47
2. Furman (1) 41
3. College of Charleston (1) 38
4. Elon 29
5. Appalachian State 24
6. Davidson 18
7. Georgia Southern 15
8. Wofford 12
() denotes first-place votes
2011 Men's Soccer Preseason All-Conference Team
F Andy Craven, College of Charleston
F Chris Thomas, Elon
F Hakan Ihhan, UNCG
MF Sean de Silva, College of Charleston
MF Fannar Arnarsson, UNCG
MF Brian Graham, UNCG
D Shawn Ferguson, College of Charleston
D Walker Jernigan, Furman
D Mahdi Ali, UNCG
D Aaron Reifschneider, UNCG
GK Kees Heemskerk, College of Charleston