The Seattle University men's soccer team began official practice Wednesday looking to show significant improvement by qualifying for the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation postseason tournament.
Peter Fewing returns for his second tour of duty as the head coach of the men's soccer team, a position he first held from 1988 to 2005. Fewing led Seattle U to the NAIA National Championship in 1997 and the NCAA Division II National Championship in 2004, and he is confident that the men's soccer program is close to reaching that championship level in Division I quickly. The accompanying photo album shows his players listening intently to him and attempting to apply his tactics to their on-field performance.
The Redhawks welcome back 11 letterwinners from the 2011 season, including senior Marshall Kosaka (Burien, Wash.), who collected three goals last year, and junior Jake Feener (Rocklin, Calif.), a veteran goalkeeper who notched 67 saves during the 2011 campaign. However, Fewing and his staff have brought in several newcomers who will challenge for playing time right away.
In the MPSF preseason coaches poll released Wednesday morning, the Redhawks were picked to finish in seventh place, which would not qualify them for the conference tournament. Seattle U collected 16 points among the league's coaches after posting a 2-13-2 overall record, including a 1-9 record in MPSF play, in the 2011 season. However, three of the losses came in sudden death overtime, and six more were one-goal defeats, meaning the team may be closer to success than last year's record would indicate.
New Mexico, ranked number one in the country late last season and boasting an unbeaten 18-0-4 overall record, was the choice by the coaches to repeat as conference champions with 47 points, including five first place votes. CSU Bakersfield received the other three first place votes and finished just behind the Lobos in second place in the preseason poll with 45 points.
Intrastate rivals Air Force and Denver tied for third place with 30 points apiece, followed by San Jose State in fifth place with 27 points and UNLV in sixth place with 22 points. Seattle U was followed in the preseason poll by conference newcomer Houston Baptist in eighth place with seven points.
Seattle U will host British Columbia in an exhibition match Saturday, Aug. 18, at 5 p.m. at Championship Field before opening the regular season with a home match against Cal Poly Friday, Aug. 24, also at 5 p.m. The Redhawks will play 10 matches within the MPSF, with the top six teams in the conference advancing to the postseason tournament in Albuquerque, N.M., Nov. 8-11.