|Matt Pivirotto||Kevin Kozic|
|Michael Bergen||Eric Hintz|
The University of Scranton men's soccer team will enter the 2014 season looking to surprise some people after being chosen fifth in the Landmark Conference preseason poll of coaches, according to a release by the conference office on Tuesday.
Head coach Matt Pivirotto's Royals, who went 10-3-4 overall and 3-3-1 in conference play last season – missing out on a playoff spot on a tiebreaker, received 35 points in the poll of the conference's nine head coaches. Catholic received five first-place votes and 72 points as the preseason favorite, followed by two-time defending champion Susquehanna, which received three first-place votes and 64 points.
Drew (three first-place votes, 55 points) and conference newcomer Elizabethtown (44 points) rounded out the top four. The top four teams in the final regular season standings qualify for the Landmark Conference playoffs. Merchant Marine Academy (30 points), Juniata (26), Goucher (16) and Moravian (9) followed the Royals in sixth through ninth, respectively.
Scranton returns 10 players who started at least seven games last season, but will need to account for the loss of two-time All-American midfielder Bill McGuiness, who finished his career with 23 goals and 15 assists, and was instrumental in the Royals' run to the NCAA Elite Eight in 2012. The Royals graduated seven other seniors off last year's team, including midfielder Colin McFadden and defender Stephen Kilty, both of whom earned all-region honors during their careers.
The Royals' top returning scorers are senior forward Kevin Kozic (Raritan, N.J./Immaculata), who had three goals and two assists last season after scoring 11 goals in 2012, and sophomore midfielder Michael Bergen (Newtown, Pa./The Pennington School), who had two goals and four assists last year. Kozic was a second-team all-conference choice last year while Bergen was the conference Rookie of the Year.
Six others return who had at least one goal or one assist, as does sophomore goalkeeper Eric Hintz (South Windsor, Conn./South Windsor), who played every minute in goal last season, putting together a 0.76 goals-against average and a .770 save percentage while posting five shutouts.
Pivirotto is in his 16th season as the Royals' head coach and has 119 career wins and two conference Coach of the Year awards. He has led the Royals to 10 or more wins four times, including each of the past two seasons.
Scranton opens its season on Friday, Aug. 29, when it hosts Penn State-Altoona at 7 p.m. at Fitzpatrick Field. The Royals open Landmark Conference play on Saturday, Sept. 27, when they travel to Selinsgrove, Pa. to take on Susquehanna at 1 p.m.
The 2014 Landmark Conference Men's Soccer Preseason Poll
|Institution (first-place votes)||Points|
|1. Catholic (5)||72|
|2. Susquehanna (3)||64|
|3. Drew (1)||55|
|6. Merchant Marine Acad.||30|