Sunday, July 03, 2011
MACON, Ga. – The soccer pitch became the proving grounds for the men’s soccer teams of the Atlantic Sun Conference in 2010. After finishing as the 24th ranked conference in the previous season, the A-Sun tied for the best turnaround in the nation by jumping up to No. 16 in the final conference RPI rankings.
Nine of the ten teams saw improvements in their individual rankings, but four programs led the charge for the A-Sun as ETSU, FGCU, Lipscomb and Mercer all knocked off around 100 spots from the previous season’s positioning.
After being ranked 182nd at the end of the 2009 season, ETSU rocketed to No. 38 in the final rankings after finishing the season with a 15-6 overall record and seven wins within conference play. In only three years since the inception of the program, the Bucs claimed the 2010 A-Sun Championship and earned a victory against two-time NCAA Champion, Clemson University, and took No. 4 North Carolina into overtime before falling to the Tar Heels. Behind Head Coach Scott Calabrese, ETSU nearly won its NCAA Tournament debut against College of Charleston falling 3-2.
The A-Sun Regular-Season Champions, FGCU saw the second-biggest improvement in regards to RPI by capping the season as the 34th ranked team following the 2009 campaign when it finished 151st. In their final season of NCAA Division I Transition, the Eagles went undefeated in A-Sun play with a 9-0 record to earn their first conference title. Along with the league achievements, FGCU defeated two ranked opponents in No.13 USF and No. 5 Ohio State. FGCU earned several rankings throughout the season including a peak of 19th in the Soccer America Top-25 Poll.
Lipscomb and Mercer both saw substantial jumps in RPI with the Bisons improving from No. 188 to 85th, while the Bears went from No. 191 to 94th. The Bears added to the A-Sun’s wins against ranked foes with a 1-0 victory against No. 29 UAB. With Stetson also achieving a top-100 RPI ranking at No. 79, five A-Sun teams appeared in the top-100, which tied the conference for seventh-most in the nation.
Overall, nine of the ten A-Sun men’s soccer squads elevated their standing in the RPI as the average ranking went from 179th in 2009 to 112th this season. After finishing the 2009 non-conference slate with 26 wins and a .335 winning percentage, A-Sun teams kicked it up this season with 39 victories and a .494 winning percentage. By finishing as the 16th ranked conference, the A-Sun jumped ahead of several competing leagues including the Atlantic 10, Northeast, Summit, Big South, Metro-Atlantic and Patriot.
To go along with their improvement on the field, the A-Sun men’s soccer student-athletes also progressed in the classroom with 127 achieving Academic All-Conference honors – nearly a nine percent increase.