CHICKASHA – For the fifth year in a row, the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma Drovers are picked to take the Sooner Athletic Conference title, according to the SAC Preseason Coaches Poll released this week.
“We are honored that the USAO men were picked pre-season No. 1,” Head Coach Jimmy Hampton said. “We have a chance to be better than the 2013 team when it’s all said and done.”
USAO received eight of the possible nine first-place votes for a total of 89 points. Wayland Baptist came in second with 76 points and Texas Wesleyan was third with 67. Coaches were not permitted to vote for their own team.
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, sitting at No. 17 in the NAIA Coaches’ Poll. The NAIA is expected to release its preseason poll on Aug. 19.
In last year’s conference tournament, the Drovers shut out all three opponents to take their sixth SAC Championship.
“It may take a bit longer to establish rhythm, style of play and chemistry this season with so many new players, but I feel like the nucleus is in place to defend the SAC title and make a push for the national tournament,” Hampton said.
The SAC champion is determined by league’s post-season tournament. The top eight teams in the final conference standings qualify for the league tournament, which begins Nov. 8. The winner earns the SAC’s automatic qualification into the NAIA Men’s Soccer National Championship tournament.
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. See full schedule
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.
Hampton and the Drovers began preseason practice on Tuesday.
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.