From Staff Reports
The Clayton State University men's and women's soccer teams are coming off their top seasons in school history in 2004 and have been picked among the nation's best in 2005
Both the men's and women's teams were ranked in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) preseason poll released today, with the men's team opening the season at 14th and women's team receiving votes for the top-25.
The Clayton State men are only one of two Peach Belt Conference schools to be ranked in the preseason poll, as defending PBC champion the University of North Carolina Pembroke, a team that advanced to last year's NCAA Final Four, enters the season ranked fourth. The Clayton State women's squad is the only team from the PBC mentioned in the poll.
The ranking for the men's squad is third time in the last five years the Lakers have opened the season in the preseason poll. The program opened the 2001 season 14th in the nation and the 2002 season 13th in the country. The men's team rose to a program-best fourth in the nation in the 2002 season. The Clayton State women's program received votes in last year's final poll, the first time the program has been mentioned in the national rankings.
Clayton State's men's team advanced last year to the "Sweet Sixteen" of the NCAA Division II National Championships with a 12-4-4 record on the season. The 2005 Lakers will kick off the season, hosting the Second Annual Laker Soccer Shootout on Friday and Saturday, August 26-27 at Laker Field. Peach Belt Conference teams Clayton State and the University of South Carolina Aiken will face Carolina Virginia Athletic Conference teams Belmont Abbey and Queens College in the event
The tourney will be an early season test, as the Lakers will face Belmont Abbey on Friday at 7:30 p.m., followed by facing Queens on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. The match-up against Queens will be a rematch of last year's epic NCAA National Championships first round match, which saw the Lakers advance to the second round of nationals in penalty kick shootout.
The Clayton State women finished last year with a 13-6-1 record, advancing to the NCAA Division II National Championships for the first time in school history. Expectations for 2005 are high, as Clayton State returns last year's freshman sensation in Olaitan Yusuf. She led the nation in scoring and points per game finishing with 35 goals and 74 points, both school and Peach Belt single season records.
The Laker women will kick off the season on the road, traveling to face Newberry College on Saturday, Aug. 27th. Clayton State's first home match will be on Sunday, Sept. 11th in one of its stiffest tests of the season.
The squad will host third-ranked Carson-Newman College, a team that ended the Lakers season last year in the NCAA Soccer Championships. The Eagles, champions of the South Atlantic Conference, last year, finished with a 20-3-1 record last season and No. 3 ranking in the nation, advancing to the NCAA Final Four.