AUGUSTA, GA – Francis Marion University has been picked as one of two preseason favorites to win the 2009 Peach Belt Conference men’s soccer championship, according to the PBC coaches’ annual poll.
For only the second time in PBC history, two teams, Francis Marion and Lander University, tied for the league’s top spot in the preseason. Francis Marion received four first-place votes on its eight ballots for 56 points, while Lander was ranked either first or second on seven of eight ballots, also for 56 points.
Francis Marion was picked fifth in the 2008 preseason poll and surprised everyone by winning the PBC regular-season championship and PBC Tournament. The Patriots, under the guidance of Coach of the Year award recipient Kevin Varnado, were 5-0-1 in conference play and advanced to the second-round of the NCAA Division II Tournament.
The Patriots return 17 of 20 lettermen, including all but one starter, from last year’s 14-5-3 squad. Among the returnees are five All-Conference players, including leading goal-scorer Kyle Clinton (10 goals, 5 assists) and goalkeeper Clark Richeson (1.37 goals against average, six shutouts).
FMU plays an exhibition match at UNC Wilmington on Tuesday evening (7 p.m.) before opening its regular season on Aug. 27 at Wingate University. The Patriots’ home opener will be against St. Andrews Presbyterian College on Aug. 29 at 2 p.m.
The Peach Belt Conference will have a new look for the 2009 season with the addition of new members Flagler College and the University of Montevallo. The 2009 PBC Tournament will begin with first-round games at home sites on Nov. 3 and conclude with the final four returning to Blanchard Woods Park in Evans, Ga., on Nov. 6 and 8.
2009 Peach Belt Conference
Men’s Soccer Preseason Coaches’ Poll
School (1st-place votes) Total
t1. Francis Marion (4) 56
t1. Lander (2) 56
3. Clayton State (2) 49
4. Montevallo (1) 48
5. UNC Pembroke 29
6. North Georgia 27
7. Flagler 26
8. USC Aiken 23
9. Georgia Southwestern 10