WICHITA FALLS, TX (KAUZ) - Midwestern State begins defense of its Heartland Conference title carrying the No. 6 ranking in the United Soccer Coaches' Preseason Poll released Thursday afternoon.
The Mustangs advanced to the NCAA Division II national quarterfinals for the sixth time in program history rolling to an 18-4-1 record including a 13-1 run through the Heartland Conference in 2016.
Senior defender Jordan Speed leads a group of four starters and 13 letterwinners off of last season's squad. The Mansfield, Texas native stabilized a stingy back line that limited the opposition to a 0.65 goals against average. Speed earned NSCAA first-team all-region honors and was a first-team All-Heartland Conference selection last fall.
Juniors Patrick Fitzgerald (4 goals, 4 assists) and Alex Mullet (2 goals, 2 assists) join Speed giving the Mustangs a stable of defensive returners.
Senior Pierre Bocquet is the lone returning starter in the midfield scoring four goals last season.
Returning letterwinners for the Mustangs include sophomore forward Jacob Hernandez (3 goals, 6 assists), sophomore midfielder Sebastian Venegas (2 goals, 5 assists), sophomore midfielder Ross Fitzpatrick (2 goals, 2 assists), senior midfielder Laurence Chamberlain (1 goal, 3 assists), senior midfielder Christopher Mendez (2 assists), junior midfielder Kristian Martinez (1 assist) and sophomore forward Jeffrey Palomarez.
Senior Richard Goss and redshirt freshman Taylor Lampe also saw action in goal for Midwestern last season.
Doug Elder enters his 18th season as the winningest coach in program history sporting a 254-56-30 mark (.791) joined by associate head coach Michael Meachum, who begins his seventh campaign in Wichita Falls.
The Mustangs are one of our teams out of the South Central Region to earn mention in the United Soccer Coaches' preseason poll which includes No. 9 St. Edward's (Texas), No. 16 Colorado Mesa and No. 21 Regis (Colo.).
Defending national champ Wingate (N.C.) tops the poll followed by Charleston (W. Va.), Rockhurst (Mo.), UC-San Diego and Adelphi (N.Y.).
Midwestern State opens the season with a pair of games on its home turf at Stang Park. MSU takes on Fort Lewis (Colo.) on Friday, Sept. 1 at 7 p.m. and UC-Colorado Springs on Sunday, Sept. 3 at 2 p.m.
Midwestern State won't be under the radar in 2017 as the Mustangs received votes in the United Soccer Coaches' Preseason Division II Poll released Thursday afternoon.
The Mustangs rode an eight-match unbeaten streak to the second round of the 2016 NCAA Division II Playoffs netting the Lone Star Conference Postseason Tournament title along the way. MSU finished with a 13-6-4 mark.
Seniors Courtney Burnette and Destinee Williamson headline a group of four returning starters and are joined by Sarah Stewart and Adriana Smith, who also started on the MSU back line last season.
Burnette, a two-time All-Lone Star Conference first-team performer and the league's goalkeeper of the year in 2014, boasts 23 career clean sheets and is coming off of a career-best 0.84 goals against average in 2016.
Burnette and the Mustangs will be without defensive ace Imani Morlock, who will miss the 2017 campaign due to injury. Morlock garnered NSCAA third-team all-region honors a season ago making 21 starts at center back also gaining first-team All-LSC honors.
Few players closed the 2016 season as well as Williamson, who finished the campaign ranking second in the LSC with 10 goals and three assists. The senior striker from Bedford fueled the Mustangs' postseason push netting six goals and two assists during the unbeaten streak to earn first-team NSCAA all-region accolades as a first-team all-conference performer.
Lone Star Conference Freshman of the Year Hanna Mattinson scored five goals and dished out four assists from the central midfield, while fellow frosh Avery Lewis tallied three goals and three assists.
Other returning letterwinners include junior midfielder Taylor Robinson (1 goal), sophomore midfielder Madison Davis, sophomore midfielder Raven Powell, junior midfielder Brandy Villasana and sophomore midfielder Michaelann Greenfield.
Damian Clarke enters his fourth season at the helm at Midwestern State posting a 29-19-12 mark (.583). He is joined by assistants Hope Siffert and Hayley Hollenga.
The Mustangs open the season with a pair of game on the home turf at Stang Park. MSU takes on Regis (Colo.) on Friday, Sept. 1 at 5 p.m. before taking on Colorado Mines Sunday, Sept. 3 at noon.
NOTE: The former National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) recently rebranded to the United Soccer Coaches.