CHICKASHA – While each season determines a new destiny for a team, the Drovers start the 2014 season right where they left off — sitting at 17th nationally, according to the NAIA Men’s Soccer Coaches’ Preseason Top 25 Poll released Tuesday.
It is the fifth year in a row that the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma appeared on the preseason Top 25 list and the fifth year the Drovers were picked to take the Sooner Athletic Conference.
“It is nice for our men’s program to continue to gain respect on the national level,” Head Coach Jimmy Hampton said. “Our goal is and always will be to one day compete and win a national title. We are not afraid to set the bar high as we chase success and will never fear failure.”
A panel of head coaches representing each of the conferences, independents and unaffiliated groups voted for the poll. The first regular-season Top 25 Poll will be announced on Sept. 23.
In 2013, the Drovers won 11 of their last 12 games, stomping through the SAC regular season and tournament with just one conference loss. The Drovers finished the 2013 campaign with a 15-5 (9-1) record.
In 16 years coaching USAO, Hampton has led the men’s team to an overall record of 210-83-14 and to the national championship tournament each of the last five years.
The athletes began practice on Aug. 12. In their first preseason exhibition less than a week later, the Drovers topped Oklahoma Wesleyan, a team ranked fifth in the preseason poll, with a 3-1 final.
“We have a lot of work, and hopefully we can put together a successful season for USAO men’s soccer,” Hampton said. “Our goal is to get better in preseason and take it one game at a time.”
The Drovers open up the 2014 season on the road at Bethany College on Aug. 28. The Drovers have one other away game before their home opener against Our Lady of the Lake at 3 p.m. Sept. 5.
Following the home opener, USAO will host an Alumni Game to give former athletes a chance to one again don the Drover uniform. The alumni game, as well as the home opener, is free and open to the public.