Linfield is Narrow Favorite in
|NWC Men's Soccer Coaches' Pre-Season Poll:||2002 records|
|1. Linfield (Ore.)||(3)||62||15-2-2||11-1-2|
|2. Puget Sound (Wash.)||(4)||61||17-4||13-1|
|3. Whitworth (Wash.)||(1)||53||12-7-1||8-5-1|
|4. Willamette (Ore.)||30||6-11-2||5-7-2|
|5. Whitman (Wash.)||28||8-9-2||4-8-2|
|6. Pacific Lutheran (Wash.)||27||7-11-1||4-9-1|
|7. George Fox (Ore.)||18||4-13-1||3-10-1|
|8. Pacific (Ore.)||17||8-11-1||3-10-1|
(First-place votes in parenthesis. Points awarded on 9-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 basis).
By the closest of margins Linfield College is the Northwest Conference coaches' pick to win the 2003 men's soccer title, according to the pre-season poll. The Wildcats, runners-up in 2002, picked up three first place votes and 62 total points, narrowly edging defending conference champion University of Puget Sound in the poll. The Loggers totaled 61 points despite picking up four first place votes.
Linfield, which finished 15-2-2 overall last season and lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament at UPS, returns a pair of All-NWC performers in Jordan Bebee (Sr., Midfield) and Paul Collins (So. Defender). The Wildcats were selected first or second on every ballot.
Puget Sound also returns a pair of All-NWC players from a team that finished 17-4 and lost in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The Loggers welcome back Justin Hughes (Sr., Midfield) and Anthony Fioretti (Jr., Midfield). Despite picking up one more first place vote than Linfield, UPS ended up second in the poll because they were chosen in third place on three ballots.
Whitworth College picked up the other first place vote and is third in the poll with 53 points. The Pirates, NWC champions in 2001, must replace 2002 NWC points leader Scott Kerwien from a team that finished 12-7-1 overall last season.
Linfield, UPS and Whitworth were selected in the top three positions on all eight ballots.
Only four points separated the fourth through sixth places in the poll. Willamette University (30 points) finished fourth after a 6-11-2 campaign in 2002. Whitman College totaled 28 points in the poll for fifth place, which is where the Missionaries finished last season with a 8-9-2 overall record. Pacific Lutheran University picked up 27 points for sixth place in the poll. The Lutes were 7-11-1 last fall.
George Fox University (18 points) and Pacific University (17 points) round out the poll in seventh and eighth places, respectively. Pacific was 8-11-1 last fall, while George Fox was 4-13-1.