The Howard Payne Yellow Jackets - entering their third year of soccer and first under new head coach Kevin Wright - were picked to finish 12th in the 14-team American Southwest Conference race, according to the preseason poll that was released Tuesday.
Wright, who served as the Yellow Jackets assistant coach in the team’s first two seasons, inherits a squad that is coming off a 4-12-1 campaign with a 3-9-1 record in conference play.
The Yellow Jackets received 113 points in the poll, which placed them ahead of Concordia’s (3-11, 2-11) 79 points and Louisiana College’s (4-15-1, 2-10-1) 59 points.
Among the players to watch for Howard Payne are juniors Malcolm Wentworth, Hugo Uribe, Brice Reusink, Dennis Benitez, Malcolm Framjee, Francisco Medina, Brandon Hopper and Shane Cahill.
UT-Dallas (14-4-3, 10-1-2) was selected as the preseason favorite, receiving 13 of 28 first-place votes and 361 points overall.
Rounding out the top five were UT-Tyler (12-6-1, 8-5), Ozarks (17-5, 11-2), Mississippi College (12-5-1, 10-2-1) and Hardin-Simmons (8-8-1, 8-4-1).
Voted sixth through 11th in the preseason poll were Mary Hardin-Baylor (11-7-1, 10-2-1), Texas Lutheran (6-9-3, 6-5-2), East Texas Baptist (8-8-2, 7-5-1), Schreiner (3-12-1, 2-10-1), LeTourneau (6-11-2, 3-9-1) and McMurry (3-10-2, 2-9-2).
Chosen as preseason players of the year were UT-Dallas senior forward Kevin White on the offensive side, and Ozarks senior goal keeper Brian Sarber on defense.
The Yellow Jackets open the season Saturday with a 5 p.m. home non-conference match against Texas Wesleyan at Citizens National Bank Field.
Howard Payne’s first five games are at home, including the ASC opener against Schreiner on Sept. 19.
The top six teams in conference play will advance to the ASC championship tournament, which will be played Nov. 7-9 at the site of the No. 1 seed.