Men's soccer primer: Stanford sets sights on title defense; watch out for Maryland
Who won the title last year?
Behind a pair of goals from Jordan Morris, Stanford took home the crown over Clemson 4-0 last December.
The Cardinal entered the tournament as the No. 8 seed but upset No. 1 Wake Forest and No. 4 Akron before finishing its run with the shutout victory over the No. 2 Tigers in the championship matchup.
After Morris scored the first two goals of the game – with the first coming two minutes into the match – Brandon Vincent and Eric Verso each added tallies in what tied the record for the largest margin of victory in a championship game.
Who’s No. 1 this year?
Despite losing its top goal scorer in Morris – who forwent his senior season to join the MLS’ Seattle Sounders – Stanford remains No. 1 heading into 2016, according to the NSCAA Coaches Poll released Aug. 2.
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But the Cardinal have plenty of firepower returning, including sophomores Corey Baird (19 points in 2015) and Foster Langsdorf (17). In addition, redshirt sophomore goalie Andrew Epstein, who was a second team All-Pac-12 performer last season, will return to net where he posted an 0.63 goals allowed average last season.
Stanford will begin its title defense with its home opener on Aug. 13 against Sacramento State.
What darkhorse teams are out there?
Plenty of the teams Stanford defeated on its way to its championship will be looking for revenge and have a good shot at it.
Akron (No. 2), Clemson (No.3) and Wake Forest (No. 5) all come in the top five in the first rankings as there isn’t too much change at the top from last season’s bracket.
But one darkhorse candidate to watch may be Maryland, which lost in last year’s College Cup quarterfinals to Clemson as the No. 10 seed.
The Terrapins enter this year as the No. 4 ranked team thanks to a healthy mix of experience and young talent. Maryland boasts a top-five class of incoming freshmen this year to accompany eight returning starters. Eryk Williamson is the team’s returning points leader after tallying six goals and five assists last year. Sebastian Elney returns as the top scorer with seven goals in 2015.
The Terrapins kick off their season at Tulsa on Aug. 14.