Men's Soccer Tabbed to Finish Second in MIAA Preseason Poll

Men's Soccer Tabbed to Finish Second in MIAA Preseason Poll
Alma, Mich. - The 2016 season for the Alma College men's soccer team was arguably its most successful in recent memory. The Scots went to their second straight Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association championship game after tallying 14 wins, the most since the 1999 Final Four season and an 8-1-1 record at Scotland Yard. It also finished the season ninth in the NCAA Central Region rankings, its highest ranking in 15 years. 
On Wednesday, Sept. 23, the MIAA released its preseason poll. The Scots are ranked second (behind conference champion Calvin) with 14 points and one first-place vote. In Head Coach Josh Oakley's six years, his team has never been ranked higher in a preseason poll.
"When (I) first started here," said Oakley, "we didn't have a lot of immediate seasons to look back on and say, 'That's what we want to aspire to be.' It was a different story and a lot of that is on the backs of that first and second recruiting classes that were here. I think of them often because they have built the program into a contender for championships."
The Scots will return 11 players that started at least half of the team's 24 games last year. This includes defensemen Sam Falardeau (Mason, Mich. / Mason) and Lucas Foust (Brooklyn, Mich. / Jackson Lumen Christi) as well as midfielder Noah Canlas (Naperville, Ill. / Naperville Central), all of whom were All-Conference Second-Teamers last year. The back line is rounded out by juniors Justin Johnson (Midland, Mich. / Midland) and Jake Geary (Novi, Mich. / Novi), who saw action in 19 and 20 games last season, respectively. 
"In a team of youth and inexperience, our back line is the most experience we have. So that's a positive, having guys that have logged a lot of minutes and played a lot of games."
The 2017 team will be made up of nine freshmen, 15 sophomores, five juniors and two seniors. It lost six seniors from last year's team, including First-Team All-MIAA defenseman Kyle Kansman and goalkeeper/Second-Team selection Nick Strait, who finished eighth in save percentage among all Division III players. As a team, the Scots finished sixth in shutout percentage, blanking 13 opponents in 21 games (tied for the most in the conference and tied for fourth in all of Division III [416 schools]). Still, the departures in talent are nothing new for Oakley. 
"Two years ago, we go to the final, we win...12 games, and then all of a sudden it's the same questions starting last season. 'You lost 12 seniors, you lose a lot of pieces in the attack, you lose this, you lose that.' We actually come back last season, go back to the final, and win more games than we had the year before, so I think that's a part of program culture and just having the right pieces in place, mentally as much as physically."
Kansman goes from one of the most decorated center backs in program history to the sideline as an assistant coach. Joining him is former Williamston High School head coach Brent Sorg.
"One thing that I've always wanted to see is for our players to get better technically. Having Coach Sorg here, putting him in charge of making sure that happens - the technical piece, the skill, the way they receive a ball, they way they play a ball, all of that stuff - he's a very good coach in terms of sticking to detail. Kyle is the perfect guy to have along because of the leadership piece and how much he was looked up to in the program when he was here. It gives me a chance to step back and truly evaluate the team and how we need to play."
Alma will begin its season on Friday, Sept. 1 against Millikin University at Scotland Yard, the first of four non-conference games before league play starts on Wednesday, Sept. 13 against Albion. The Scots will host MIAA champs Calvin on Saturday, Sept. 23 at 2:30 p.m. On back-to-back Saturdays in mid-October, Alma will play host to Kalamazoo and Adrian in two notable games. Alma lost one game to Kalamazoo last year and tied in the other, while defeating Adrian 1-0 three times in 2016, including in the MIAA Semifinal Game. 
Below is the 2017 MIAA Men's Soccer Preseason Coaches Poll:
1. Calvin, 7 points (7 first-place votes)
2. Alma, 14 points (1 first-place vote)
3. Adrian, 18 points
4. Kalamazoo, 28 points
5. Albion, 30 points  
6. Hope, 36 points  
7. Olivet, 45 points  
8. Trine, 46 points  
Contact: Zach Russo, Assistant Sports Information Director, (989) 463-7436