The NCAA Division II preseason poll was released Tuesday and the Drury Panther’s were included in the Top 10. The defending GLVC Champions (pictured) are coming off of their most successful season ever, finishing 21-2-0, losing 0-1 to Lewis University in the second round of the NCAA tournament following two straight shutout wins over Northern Kentucky in the GLVC Finals and NCAA 1st Round, avenging the only regular season loss that year.
The team returns a core of seven starters from last years team including the entire defensive corp, starting with senior GK Stephen Conner (Glendale). Conner had 14 shutouts in 2009, giving up only 11 goals overall and was named the GLVC Defensive Player of the Year while also earning 2nd Team All-American status.
His defensive line is a quartet of seniors, led by Ben Taylor (pictured holding the trophy), also a 2nd Team All-American and the second leading returning scorer on the team with 7 goals and 5 assists. Taylor plays outside left and handles many of the teams set pieces. The central defenders will be Blake Wilson and Conner McClellan while Grant Bowden will be the outside right back. This battle tested defensive crew will be relied on to keep the Panther’s close while the team identify’s who will step up to replace the 26 goals, including 11 game-winners, scored by Steve Wilczewski and Andrew Bordelon in 2009.
The midfield will be led by senior Peter Higgins, who will move into the play-making position vacated by Ben Nabers. Nabers was the unsung hero of last years team, with the ability to reliably hold the ball in tight situations before starting the Panther’s attack. Higgin’s is very talented, earning Honorable Mention All-American recognition last year, and one of the hardest workers on the team but is the only returning starter in the midfield. A pair of Springfield products, Danny Collins (Glendale) and Adam Peterson (Kickapoo) played in 20 or more games each last year and will work to earn starting positions this year. Collins scored 3 goals and had 3 assists from his outside position while Peterson scored 2 goals while earning minutes at both midfield and forward. One incoming freshman, Brendan Langford (San Antonio, TX) spent the summer in Springfield playing for the Demize PDL team. Langford showed good technical skills during the minutes he played and should earn playing time but likely won’t be prepared to start.
Micah Whorton returns up top following a highly successful season in 2009, scoring 15 goals and providing 15 assists and 45 points, tops on the team. Whorton earned 3rd Team All-American recognition for his efforts and will be expected to continue his fine form in his senior season. Sr Dave Emnett played in 18 games last year and will challenge for a starting position.
The recruiting class this year is 12 players strong, coming from 4 states, and includes Catholic’s Justin Bowenschulte. A few I think can make an impact this year include this trio of Scott-Gallagher players from St Louis:
Alec Nagel, 5-11 midfielder, Jefferson City High School: Alec was a First Team All-Region, First Team All-State and Central Region MVP selection who’s speed and strength could pair well with Whorton.
Matthew Hutchison, 6-0 forward, CBC High School: Matthew helped CBC and his Scott Gallagher club team both to state championships in 2009. He was named to the First Team All-Conference, All-Metro and All-State squads, and is playing club this spring with the Gallagher Academy.
Michael Yuede, 5-8 midfielder, St. Dominic High School: He was the Class 2 state player of the year after leading his team to a state championship, earning First Team All-State and Second Team All-Metro honors. Yuede also was a number of the ’09 Missouri state champion Scott Gallagher Soccer Club team.
The Panther’s open regular season play on Friday September 3rd at Ashland University in Ashland, Ohio before traveling to Chicago for a Sunday September 5th game at Lewis University. Lewis reached the NCAA Final 4 after beating Drury in the 2nd round so this game will be an early season grudge match.
The first home game will be Friday September 17th against Truman State University, the other ranked Missouri team, coming in at 24th in the preseason poll.