KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The team at the top of the final NAIA regular season men’s soccer Top 25 is the same one who’s been there for the previous eight editions.
The University of Rio Grande was a unanimous choice for the top spot for the fifth straight week in the rankings released Sunday night by the NAIA national office.
The RedStorm garnered all 19 first-place votes and 529 points in the balloting of head coaches representing each of the NAIA’s conferences, independents and unaffiliated groups.
Head coach Scott Morrissey’s squad, which knocked off Asbury University and No. 25 West Virginia University-Tech last week to capture the Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference tournament title, is ranked No. 1 in the poll for the 55th time since 2000 – more than any other NAIA program.
The RedStorm (18-1) has been ranked No. 1 in 14 of the past 16 polls going back to the 2014 campaign and is second nationally with 97 consecutive appearances in the Top 25. Only No. 20 Lindsey Wilson has more consecutive appearances with 104. The nine-straight No. 1 rankings is the most in-a-row since Lindsey Wilson (Ky.) accomplished a 10-game streak that spanned the end of the 2011 season into the 2012 campaign.
Oklahoma Wesleyan (512 pts.) is in second place for the fifth straight week, while Missouri Valley (490 pts.) jumped up two spots into third place. Davenport, Mich. (470 pts.) and Baker, Kan. (458 pts.) round out the top five.
No. 10 Rocky Mountain (Mont.) claims the best improvement with a five-spot hike. Conversely, No. 16 MidAmerica Nazarene (Kan.) and No. 17 Corban (Ore.) slip down five positions.
No. 23 Indiana Wesleyan is the lone newcomer. After winning the Crossroads League Tournament, the Wildcats are again mentioned after being last ranked in the 2015 Preseason Top 25 (No. 20). The Master’s (Calif.) was the team which dropped off the list.
Sixteen of the 19 conferences, Association of Independent Institutions (AII) and unaffiliated group were represented this week. The Heart of America Athletic Conference and Mid-South Conference field the most representatives in the Top 25 with three each.
The 32-team NAIA National Championship Opening Round qualifiers and bracket will be announced Monday at 1 p.m.
Randy Payton is the Sports Information Director at the University of Rio Grande.