AUGUSTA, GA -- By the slimmest possible margin, the Clayton State Lakers have been selected as the men's soccer team to beat in the Peach Belt Conference in a poll of the league's head coaches. The Lakers took three first-place and three second-place votes to beat Lander, who had three first, two second and a third, by one point. USC Aiken was third, coming in one point ahead of fourth-place UNC Pembroke. Francis Marion, North Georgia and GSW rounded out the voting.
The Hurricanes return five starters from last year's squad that finished 0-18, so there will be plenty of new faces on the field for GSW this fall. A total of 12 newcomers are on the 'Canes opening day roster, including three college transfers, a signee from London, England, and eight true freshman.
Clayton State enters the season as the three-time defending PBC Champion, inlcuding a co-championship with Lander in 2006. Clayton State and Lander have also met in the last two PBC Tournament championship games and in the first round of the 2007 NCAA Tournament. However, to get their fourth straight PBC title, the Lakers will have to contend with the loss of 10 starters from last season's 14-4-2 team. Head coach Pete Petersen will reload with 17 new players on the roster.
Lander is ranked #18 nationally heading into the 2008 season. The Bearcats hope to build on last season's 14-4-2 team that advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament. Coach Van Taylor welcomes back 2007 All-Conference standouts Aaron Brittain and Jamie Ramm. Brittain was one of four players tied for second in the PBC with 13 goals while Ramm was part of a defensive midfield that allowed only 15 goals to be scored in 19 games. Also back is 2006 PBC Freshma of the Year Adam Arthur who missed most of last season with an injury.
USC Aiken survived a rough start to the 207 season to post a 4-2 record in PBC play and a tie for second. Coach Ike Ofoje will rely on seniors Kofi Akyere, Tim Constanzo and Durrell Johnson for leadership on the field. Akyere was named the co-PBC Player of the Year in 2007 after scoring 12 goals with three assists.
The 2008 men's soccer season begins on Aug. 28 with Peach Belt Conference play beginning Sept. 20 and continuing on to the PBC Tournament which begins on Nov. 4.
GSW kicks-off the 2008 campaign on Thursday, hosting Barry University at 4 p.m.
The 2008 coaches' poll is listed below. Coaches were not allowed to rank their own teams.
School 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th Total
1. Clayton State 3 3 0 0 0 0 33
2. Lander 3 2 1 0 0 0 32
3. USC Aiken 1 0 3 1 1 0 23
4. UNC Pembroke 0 1 2 3 0 0 22
5. Francis Marion 0 1 0 2 3 0 17
6. North Georgia 0 0 1 1 3 1 14
7. Ga. Southwestern 0 0 0 0 0 6 6
The Peach Belt Conference contributed to this story