The USA South Athletic Conference's men's soccer coaches have released their 2018 preseason polls. Each divisional preseason poll only includes votes from coaches within that particular division-only. Head coaches do not vote for their own teams in the balloting.
Chosen as USA South East Division favorites was N.C. Wesleyan College, led by eighth-year head coach Frankie Taal. Last fall, the Battling Bishops earned the Conference's East Division Regular Season title, the eighth regular season crown in program history. As the top-seed and host in the USA South Tournament, N.C. Wesleyan captured the program's third championship and first since 2008. The Bishops fell in the first round of the NCAA Tournament and finished with a 15-6-0 overall record. N.C. Wesleyan received 24 total points and four first place votes in this year's preseason poll, finishing just ahead of Greensboro College which gathered 22 points and the remaining two first place votes.
Placing atop the USA South West Division poll was Maryville College, led by head coach Pepe Fernandez in his 28th season. Last fall, the Scots grabbed the program's second consecutive USA South regular season title, this time of the divisional variety. The Scots advanced to the finals of the USA South Tournament, falling to host N.C. Wesleyan to conclude the 2017 season with an 16-3-1 overall record. Maryville received 36 total points and six first place votes in this year's preseason poll. Brevard College and Covenant College each grabbed 26 points to tie for second while Brevard took the final remaining first place vote.
The Scots' men's soccer program will boast of the talents of seven returning all-conference standouts on the pitch including Ryan Jorgensen, Chris Fernandez, Gavin Dougherty, Randy Reichenberger, Johnny Rakhmonberdiev, Milan Card, and Nate Long. Reigning USA South Coach of the Year Coach Pepe Fernandez returns nine of eleven starters from a squad that went 9-1-1 within the USA South.
"We feel like we have a group that will play the Maryville system at a very high level, stated Coach Fernandez. "The balance between strong starters returning and the addition of quality new players looks like good mix. We are very excited to see this team play."
Maryville will begin their season August 31st against Millsaps College in Lookout Mountain, Georgia.
The USA South welcomed Brevard College and Pfeiffer University last season as institutions reclassifying from NCAA Division II status. This year each of their teams are included in the preseason poll and eligible for regular season championship honors. Both Brevard and Pfeiffer still will not be eligible to qualify for the USA South Tournament and/or the NCAA Tournament until full NCAA Division III membership is established.
The 2018 USA South Men's Soccer Tournament will once again be conducted exclusively on campus sites. The top-four seeded teams from each division will advance to the tournament.