PIKEVILLE – The University of Pikeville men’s soccer team was picked to finish eighth in the Mid-South Conference Preseason Coaches’ Poll, league officials announced on Wednesday.
But that prediction comes with a lot of unknowns as the team enters 2016 with a new head coach and 21 newcomers on the roster. Of those, 17 are freshmen, three are junior transfers and one, Eric Bernabue, was already enrolled, but is picking up the sport in addition to tennis.
Gary Warford is in his first season at the helm of the men’s program, but is no stranger to soccer at UPIKE after coaching the women over the past five seasons, a position that he will continue.
It’s the first time Warford has coached two teams at once, but he’s having fun with the challenge.
“I would have never taken on both jobs if I didn’t love the game of soccer,” said Warford. “I want to give back to the University of Pikeville and make sure both programs progress.”
His men’s team will start out at the bottom of the pack in the preseason poll, granted it is largely based off last season’s results. With so many new faces and new leadership in place, UPIKE figures to use being somewhat of an unknown to its advantage in 2016.
Coming off its first MSC Regular-Season Championship last season, Campbellsville is the favorite to win the league, grabbing five of the eight available first-place votes. Lindsey Wilson is picked second with the other three votes and Cumberland (Tenn.) rounds out the top three.
Coaches were not allowed to vote for their own teams.
In the middle of the pack, it’s Cumberlands at No. 4, Shawnee State (Ohio) at No. 5, newcomer Life (Ga.) at No. 6 and Georgetown is seventh.
UPIKE finished 2-11 overall last season, including an 0-7 mark against MSC competition. The 2016 campaign is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. on Aug. 27 against Hiwassee (Tenn.) at the Bob Amos Soccer Complex.