FREELAND, Mich. – In a preseason poll of Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association head men's soccer coaches, the Calvin Knights were selected to extend their streak as MIAA conference champions in 2016.
The Knights ranked atop the poll thanks to seven first-place votes; Kalamazoo, the second-place pick, received the eighth first-place tally. Alma ranked third overall by edging fourth-place pick Hope by three points. Adrian was predicted for a fifth-place finish, moving in front of Albion and Trine by two and five points, respectively; Olivet rounded out the poll.
The preseason poll for MIAA men's soccer awards one point for a first-place vote, two points for a second-place vote, et cetera; coaches were not allowed to vote for their own programs.
Calvin, unbeaten in MIAA play since the 2013 season, is coming off a 24-1-1 campaign in 2015 that culminated with its appearance in the national semifinals. A trio of first-team all-MIAA selections return for the Knights, including veterans Stephan Hooker (Sr., M, Hudsonville, Mich.) and Isky Van doome (Sr., M, Calgary, Alberta); Hooker was also an NSCAA All-Region selection in 2015. Trent Vegter (So., D, Hudsonville, Mich.) was the MIAA Newcomer of the Year and was the lone freshman to be a first-team all-MIAA honoree.
Kalamazoo (11-7-1, 10-4-0) features three seniors that were first-team all-MIAA selections in 2015 for the Hornets. Cal Kirchen (Sr., F, Ann Arbor, Mich.) led the team in scoring last year with 14 goals and 34 points. Kyle Hernandez (Sr., M, Holland, Mich.) bolstered the Hornets' attack with 16 points (5 goals, 6 assists) last season, while Joshua Robison (Sr., M, Okemos, Mich.) ranked third in scoring for Kalamazoo in 2015. Hernandez and Kirchen were also third-team all-region picks last fall.
Alma (12-7-1, 8-5-1) advanced to the MIAA championship game in 2015 after defeating Kalamazoo on the road in the semifinal round. Kyle Kansman (Sr., D, Farmington Hills, Mich.) was a first-team all-MIAA selection and will team up with second-team all-MIAA honoree Nick Strait (Sr., GK, Jenison, Mich.) to anchor the Scots defensively.
Hope (9-10-1, 6-7-1) charged into the 2015 MIAA men's soccer tournament thanks to three consecutive wins to close out the regular season; Alex Lindsay (Sr., M, East Lansing, Mich.) scored twice in the regular season finale for the Dutchmen, including the game-winner, to help push Hope into the postseason.
Adrian (6-11-2, 5-8-1) edged Albion (5-13-1, 3-11-0) for the fifth spot by a slim two-point margin. Trine (8-11-1, 5-9-0) and Olivet (4-15-1, 3-10-1), concluded the coaches poll.
The 2016 MIAA men's soccer season begins Thursday, Sept. 1 when Adrian, Alma, and Olivet all host non-conference contests. Conference play gets underway Tuesday, Sept. 13 with four MIAA matches on the table.