MITCHELL, S.D. – The Dakota Wesleyan University men’s soccer team made history in 2011, and the Tigers are looking to do so again in 2012.
The Tigers, who beat a nationally ranked opponent for the first time in school history and hosted the program’s first-ever Great Plains Athletic Conference playoff game, finished tied for fourth in the league’s preseason coaches’ poll, which was released Tuesday afternoon.
Dakota Wesleyan went 9-9-1 overall and 6-3-1 in the conference in 2011, and, along with Concordia University, received 71 points in the poll. Concordia went 5-3-2 in 2011. Hastings College remained at the top of the poll after winning the GPAC regular-season and tournament titles and making it to the national title game for the second year in a row before losing to Lindsey Wilson. The Broncos received 100 points and 10 first-place votes.
Midland University took second with 80 points and one first-place vote and Northwestern College took third with 78 points. The coaches’ poll is voted on by the league’s 11 head coaches.
The Tigers return plenty of talent from last year’s squad, including senior Hugo Gonzalez. Gonzalez earned All-GPAC First Team honors as a junior – the first DWU player to earn first team accolades since the 2006 season. Also back are Drew Joachim, Eric Moller, Carlos Mora and Nick Sterling, who earned All-GPAC Honorable Mention nods.
Gonzalez led the team with eight goals and seven assists in 2011, and Sterling was second with five goals and four assists. Joachim also had three goals and Moller had two. Dakota Wesleyan lost All-GPAC Second Team goalie Jordan Werner to graduation, but return sophomore Alex Ek, and signed several talented keepers in the offseason, including incoming freshman Manny Paravalos, who spent the summer playing for the Panama City Pirates – a Premier Development League team based out of Panama City, Fla.
Of the Tigers’ nine losses in 2011, six were by a single goal and three came in overtime – including a 3-2, double overtime loss to No. 10 Kansas Wesleyan early in the season. The Tigers also lost by a single goal to Hastings College, which was No. 1 in the NAIA at the time. Dakota Wesleyan did, however, beat Concordia University and Dordt College, which were both receiving votes in the NAIA when they played.
Dakota Wesleyan starts the 2012 season with an exhibition game at Iowa Lakes Community College on Aug. 20 in Spencer, Iowa. The Tigers start the regular season Aug. 31 at Texas Wesleyan University in Fort Worth, Texas, and open the home season Sept. 22 against Hastings.