CHICKASHA – The Drover men’s soccer team is expected to be one of the toughest to beat this season, according to preseason rankings released this week.

After a NAIA National Tournament quarterfinals appearance in 2010, the Drovers are tied with Oklahoma Baptist at the top of the Sooner Athletic Conference preseason poll, which came out Monday.

Additionally, the Drovers appear 15th in the NAIA national poll released Tuesday evening.

On the SAC poll, the Bison, who also attended the NAIA National Tournament last season, received six of the 11 first-place votes, as chosen by other SAC coaches. USAO was listed as first on four but second on the remaining seven. Both teams finished with 94 points.

“With the players we graduated, it is a bit of a surprise,” Coach Jimmy Hampton said. “But we feel with some hard work, we will try to continue to be a strong program year in and year out. The SAC is a great conference with excellent coaches, players and teams. We have our work cut out for us.”

Coming in third with one first place vote was Oklahoma City University.

On the women’s side of the conference, the Drovers sit in the middle at No. 7 with 76 points, just four points behind the fourth-ranked team, Oklahoma Baptist.

 “A lot of it is based on last year and where we finished the last couple of years, so I think that’s a fair spot for them to begin. I bet you a lot money we’re going to finish higher than that,” Hampton said. “It’s up to us to prove we deserve to be in that top half.”

The Drover women have most of their returners coming back for another season as well as some top recruits Hampton and the other coaches are excited about.

Topping the poll for the women was Oklahoma City, with 11 first-place votes, and Southern Nazarene with one vote.

Published: Aug. 16, 2011