Durango Herald file photo
The Fort Lewis College men’s soccer team will start 2012 where it ended 2011: No. 1.
The reigning national champions received the typical preseason honored bestowed on the previous year’s victors Tuesday when the National Soccer Coaches Association of America/Continental Tire preseason rankings were released.
The Skyhawks started the season the same way in 2010 after winning the 2009 national title. That year, FLC finished 11-5-4 and missed the NCAA Tournament, so head coach Oige Kennedy is taking nothing for granted this time around.
“Obviously it is always an honor to be ranked No. 1 in the nation at any point of the season, but we are all aware it’s where you’re ranked in December that counts,” Kennedy said in a news release to The Durango Herald. “If you want to be hoisting a national trophy over your head then, you need to be the hardest-working team in the nation right now.”
Lynn, Franklin Pierce, Millersville and Flagler rounded out the top five. No other Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference teams were among those ranked, although Metro State did receive votes.
On the women’s side, the Skyhawks will enter the 2012 campaign ranked No. 10 nationally. Defending champ Saint Rose, Grand Valley State, Armstrong Atlantic State, Chico State and Colorado Mines make up the top five.
Fort Lewis went 15-3-4 last season before bowing out to RMAC rival Colorado Mines in the NCAA Sweet 16.
All Fort Lewis teams will compete in a different region this year. The RMAC was moved from the Central Region to the South Central Region in a shift prompted by the NCAA, and the conference will join members of the Heartland and Lone Star Conferences, which have members in Texas, Kansas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and New Mexico.
On the women’s side, FLC joins regional foes Mines, Abilene Christian (No. 7), Dallas Baptist (15) and Central Oklahoma (16) in the rankings. In the men’s poll, Incarnate Word (10), which will meet FLC on Aug. 31 in Boulder, and Midwestern State (14) also were ranked from the region.
“It’s obvious that not only the conference, but the region is getting a lot of attention,” head coach Damian Clarke said in a news release. “It’s an honor and a privilege to have the kind of pressure that we do.”
The Fort Lewis men will host two preseason exhibitions. The Skyhawks will meet Otero Junior College on Aug. 19 at a time to be determined, and they’ll hold their annual alumni game at 3:30 p.m. on Aug. 25. The women will host their alumni game at 1 p.m. on Aug. 25.