CHARLOTTE, N.C. - The Coastal Carolina University men's soccer team has been voted first in the Big South Conference's annual preseason poll, as voted by the league's head men's soccer coaches, it was announced Tuesday by the league office. In addition, the coaches voted Chanticleer forward Ricky Garbanzo the league's Preseason Attacking Player of the Year and defender Shawn McLaws the Preseason Defensive Player of the Year.
The Chanticleers' sweep of the Preseason Player of the Year awards is the third in as many seasons for the program. Last year, eventual NSCAA All-American and MLS SuperDraft first round selection Pedro Ribeiro was named the Preseason Attacking Player of the Year, while Uchenna Uzo, who enters his final season with the Chants, was chosen as the Preseason Defensive Player of the Year.
The Chanticleers, ranked No. 17 in the NSCAA preseason national rankings, received seven first-place votes and 96 total points to repeat as Big South champions in 2014. Coastal Carolina has won three consecutive regular season titles and has reached the "Sweet 16" of the NCAA Championship each of the past two seasons. The Chants are coming off a 19-5-0 season and 9-1-0 Big South record in 2013.
Winthrop and High Point tied for the No. 2 spot with 82 points each, with the Eagles receiving two first-place votes. Campbell tallied the final first-place vote and 65 total points to finish fourth in the voting, while Liberty was fifth with 58 points. Radford claimed the sixth position with 48 points, just ahead of Gardner-Webb (seventh, 43 points). Longwood garnered eighth-place with 35 points, followed by UNC Asheville (23 points) and Presbyterian College (18 points).
Garbanzo (Rock Hill, S.C.) has already been named to the MAC Hermann Trophy Watch List to open the 2014 season. A two-time First-Team All-Big South selection, Garbanzo led Coastal with 13 goals in 2013 and was second in scoring with 27 points. He ranked ninth in the nation in goals and 22nd in points a year ago, and recorded a team and Big South season-high eight game-winning goals in 2013. Garbanzo is currently 13th all-time in Big South history with 32 career goals, 14 of which are game-winners. Garbanzo received four first-place votes and 16 points in the voting, ahead of High Point's Mamadee Nyepon (13 points, two first-place votes) and Gardner-Webb's Denzel Clarke (10 points, one first-place vote).
McLaws (Edmond, Okla.) is the reigning Big South Defensive Player of the Year. He earned First-Team All-Big South honors in 2013, in addition to Big South All-Tournament Team and NSCAA All-South Atlantic Region Second-Team accolades last season. A versatile defender, McLaws has played right back, center back and defensive midfield for the Chanticleers, often making the transition in-game. He started all 23 matches he played last season and helped Coastal to a 0.83 goals against average and 12 shutouts -- both League bests. McLaws tallied eight first-place votes and 26 total points, ahead of High Point goalkeeper Kody Palmer (10 points).
Each of Coastal's first three matches of the 2014 regular season come against ranked opponents. The Chanticleers open on the road at No. 8 UConn (Aug. 29) and at No. 2 Maryland (Sept. 1) before wrapping up its three-game road trip at No. 23 Charlotte (Sept. 5). Coastal plays in front of the home fans for the first time on Sept. 13, against Furman.
Fans can get an early look at the 2014 Chanticleers in exhibition play against Old Dominion (Wednesday, Aug. 20) and Wofford (Saturday, Aug. 23). Both exhibition matches are slated for a 4 p.m. start at the CCU Soccer Stadium.
2014 Big South Conference Preseason Men's Soccer Poll
Rk Team (first-place votes) 1. Coastal Carolina (7) 96 T-2. Winthrop (2) 82 T-2. High Point 82 4. Campbell (1) 65 5. Liberty 58 6. Radford 48 7. Gardner-Webb 43 8. Longwood 35 9. UNC Asheville 23 10. Presbyterian 18
Note: Points are based on a weighted system, with first-place votes receiving 10 points, followed by 9 points for second-place, and so on.