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Skyhawks’ men’s soccer team gets top preseason mark

Expected, but that doesn’t mean it’s not exciting.

Call it excitement with extreme caution.

Either way, it’s an exemplary mark, and Fort Lewis College men’s soccer coach Oige Kennedy fully expects the Skyhawks to add an explanation point to its national No. 1 ranking.

“We’re excited, but it was expected,” Kennedy said Tuesday after the Division II Preseason Top 25 Poll was released.

The national No. 1 ranking typically is reserved for the defending national champion.

“That was last year, though,” Kennedy said. “We need to make sure this year’s players know that that had nothing to do with them. That was done last year.”

Last year, the Skyhawks finished a 23-1-0 season with a 1-0 shutout against Lees-McRae on Dec. 5 in Tampa, Fla. – their second national championship and fourth title-game appearance in 10 years.

Lees-McRae is ranked second in the preseason poll.

Lewis (Ill.), LeMoyne (N.Y.) and Tampa round out the top five, while Cal State-Dominguez Hills, Charleston (W.Va.), Southern New Hampshire, Drury and Rollins round out the top 10.

Colorado School of Mines, the Skyhawks’ archrivals in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference, are ranked 18th to start the 2010 season.

“That’s good for our conference,” Kennedy said of the Golden school. “(Mines head coach Frank Kohlenstein) does a great job over there.”

Colorado Mines is ranked seventh in the women’s preseason top 25 poll, and Metro State of the RMAC is ranked 10th.

Grand Valley State, West Florida, Saint Rose (N.Y.), Cal State-Dominguez Hills and Carson-Newman (Tenn.) form the top five, while Texas A&M, California (Pa.) and Northern Kentucky are ranked Nos. 6, 8 and 9, respectively.

FLC officially begins training for its fall season Sunday.

Its first true test, Kennedy said, is an Aug. 21 exhibition match against the program’s alumni.

“That will help us establish where this group is,” the second-year coach said. “That’s a big game.”

Kennedy said there could be as many as 11 All-Americans and 11 national champions on the alumni side, including 2005 national champion and one of the division’s greatest players of all time in John Cunliffe.

“We need to teach this new team the tradition of Fort Lewis,” Kennedy said.

aaron@durangoherald.com