Aug. 19, 2010

Courtesy of Fort Lewis Athletics

DURANGO, Colo. —
The National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) announced its pre-season NCAA Division II men’s soccer rankings on Aug. 10 and, as expected, the defending national champion Fort Lewis College Skyhawks soared to the top of the list.

Second-year head coach Oige Kennedy knows that his team will have a big target on its back, but cautions fans that 2010 is a new season. “I think people need to remember that we lost seven starting players from the team that started the final game against Lees-McCrae in Tampa,” he said.

The Skyhawks reloaded over the summer, making several additions to their team. Kennedy wants to make sure the new players know what will be expected of them.

“With such an influx of players, we have to make sure they are brought up to speed very quickly on what it means to represent this program, school and community,” he added. “The ’99 team [which finished second in the nation, losing 2-1 in double overtime in the NCAA championship] started a tradition here and it is this new breed that must make sure it continues for another 10 years.”

Since then, the Skyhawks won a pair of national championships in 2005 and ’09 and lost the ’06 championship game 1-0 to Dowling.

The Central Region was well represented in the Top 25. In addition to Fort Lewis, West Texas A&M (11th), Colorado Mines (18th) and Midwestern St. (19th) are also ranked.

The team begins its 2010 campaign with the annual alumni game at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 21 at Dirks Field. The game promises to be a classic with several members from both the ’05 and ’09 national championship teams returning to join up with the usual suspects from ’99.

The game also marks the long-awaited return to Dirks Field for one of NCAA Division II’s most decorated players of all time, John Cunliffe. Cunliffe played for two seasons in the MLS for Chivas USA (2007) and San Jose (2008) and was the 2006 NCAA Division II Player of the Year and the Player of the Century for the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference.