CHICKASHA – After going undefeated in the Sooner Athletic Conference in 2012 and returning every starter, the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma Drovers were the undisputed top pick in the SAC preseason coaches poll released this week.
It is the fourth year in a row the Drovers were picked to win the conference title.
“It is an honor any time the SAC coaches feel like our program has a chance to be good,” head coach Jimmy Hampton said. “We are ready to begin the process of focusing on being successful in our first game.”
Hampton and the players began preseason practices on Wednesday, and the coaches are sure not to get wrapped up in previous season successes.
Along with the tough conference opponents, the Drovers have scheduled some likely NAIA Top 25 teams. The NAIA is expected to release their Preseason Top 25 poll on Aug. 20.
“We have scheduled our most difficult schedule to date, and our goal is to represent the SAC to the best of our ability so people outside of our conference know just how strong it is in the SAC,” Hampton said.
The Drovers only graduated one senior from the 2012 squad and return every starter. Hampton and his coaching staff added some international talent who may see starting time early in the season, he said.
In 2012, the Drovers went undefeated in the SAC, finishing the season with a conference record of 7-0-1. The team’s only loss came in the NAIA Men’s Soccer National Championship tournament. They ended the season with an overall record of 14-1-4.
USAO received a perfect score of 100 in the SAC poll with 10 first-place votes. Coaches are not permitted to rank their own teams. Oklahoma City came in second with 76 points and John Brown, who received the remaining first-place vote, had a total of 73 points.
“There are numerous top teams and coaching in the SAC, so we will just do our best to meet the demands of those games one by one,” Hampton said.
Starting this season, the SAC begins play with four new teams — Texas Wesleyan, Northwood, Southwestern Assemblies of God and Southwestern Christian — bringing to conference’s total to 11.
Fans will get an opportunity to see the Drover men in action at home at 4 p.m. Aug. 23, when the Drovers take on Oklahoma Wesleyan in an exhibition match.
The Drovers officially kick off the season at Our Lady of the Lake on Aug. 30. They play Houston-Victoria at OLLU before returning to Chickasha for their home opener against University of Texas – Brownsville at 3 p.m. Sept. 5.
Full schedule of USAO’s games