If the Fort Lewis College men’s soccer team is to return to the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Tournament in early November, it will have to prove coaches and critics alike that it belongs in the mix, after the Skyhawks were picked to finish sixth out of 12 schools in the preseason coaches poll that was released Tuesday.
The Skyhawks are looking to return to the postseason tournament, after it missed out for the first time in program history in 2018 when it went 9-6-2 and finished in seventh place in the RMAC.
FLC had two Skyhawks who were named to the RMAC preseason players to watch list, as redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Peter Byrne and senior midfielder Ty Lang received the accolade.
Lang, just one of two seniors alongside defender Marshall Metzger, was an integral part to the 2018 squad, as he logged 1,591 minutes, scored four times and also added four assists, which was the third highest on the team.
Byrne, who missed the 2018 season due to injury, was named to the honorable mention team his freshman season, and recorded six shutouts and was the top goalkeeper in the conference in saves (108) and save percentage (.857).
Led by fourth-year coach David Oberholtzer, the Skyhawks will have plenty of competition in the middle of the table, as Dixie State, projected seventh in the RMAC, received 66 votes, while the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs, picked fifth, received 72 votes.
Fort Lewis received 67 total votes.
Colorado School of Mines was the overwhelming favorite for the second consecutive preseason poll, as the Orediggers received 10 first-place vote, and garnered 120 total votes, well ahead of second-place Westminster with 104 votes and Colorado Mesa with 103. Returning for Mines includes 2018 Defensive Player of the Year Jason Zobott and senior midfielder Ford Edwards.
South Dakota School of Mines was projected to finish in 10th after it received 24 votes, while Colorado Christian and Adams State tied for last in 11th, as both schools picked up 20 votes.
The Skyhawks will open the season Sept. 6 against California State University, East Bay in Salt Lake City.
Women’s soccerThe Fort Lewis College women’s soccer team is also eager to return to the RMAC Tournament after it too missed out for the first time in program history last season. Like the men, the Skyhawks were projected to finish mid-table, after they were picked eighth and received 87 votes. Fort Lewis finished 6-9-2 and went 5-7-1 in conference play last season, and missed out on the conference tournament by goal differential.
Two Skyhawks made the preseason players watch list: senior midfielder Emma Patron and sophomore defender Katie Smith.
Second-year head coach Damian Clarke will have plenty of options in midfield, but Patron will look to lead the Skyhawks again, as she tallied two goals and added five assists, and was a key cog in last year’s offense. Meanwhile, Smith was a stout central defender and was named to the 2018 First Team All-RMAC, and scored three times, all off of set pieces.
Mines was picked as the top team in conference and earned 13 of 14 first-place votes, in addition to 169 total votes, while UCCS was second with 151 votes and received the other first-place vote. Dixie State is projected to finish third after it received 129 votes, and Metropolitan State University was picked fourth.
Adams State was picked 12th with 35 votes, while New Mexico Highlands was projected to finish 13th. Black Hills State was picked to finish in last with 19 votes.
Fort Lewis opens the season Sept. 6 when it hosts Angelo State University at Dirks Field.