CHICKASHA – With every starter returning, the Drovers of the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma begin the season in the NAIA Top 10, according to the association’s Preseason Coaches Poll released Tuesday.
The Drovers, who went undefeated in 2012 until their final game, claim the spot at No. 10.
For the fourth year in a row, the Drovers were picked to win the Sooner Athletic Conference title and have appeared in the NAIA Top 25 in preseason.
“It is a testament to the former and current athletes, and to the assistant coaches who have helped the university gain recognition and respect across the country,” USAO head coach Jimmy Hampton said.
USAO is the only SAC school to appear in the Top 25. Oklahoma City and Wayland Baptist are both receiving votes.
Despite the team’s accolades, Hampton describes the Drovers as a work in progress.
“The men are still trying to find their identity, but we are optimistic that we can be a competitive side by the time conference play comes around,” Hampton said. “We will just work hard daily to correct our mistakes and grow to be the best team we can be.”
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.
The team’s only loss in 2012 came in the NAIA Men’s Soccer National Championship tournament in their final game of the season. They ended the year at 10 in the NAIA with an overall record of 14-1-4.
Fans will get an opportunity to see the Drover men in action at home at 4 p.m. Friday, when the Drovers take on No. 14 Oklahoma Wesleyan in an exhibition match.
The Drovers officially kick off the season against Houston-Victoria at Our Lady of the Lake on Aug. 30. They play (RV) 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