Defending CIS champ Vikes top preseason men’s soccer poll

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EDMONTON – The 2011 CIS champion Victoria Vikes are the slight favourite among Canada West men’s soccer coaches as the team most likely to come away with the conference title in 2012.

The Vikes garnered six of 11 first-place votes, while UBC picked up the other five. UVic took the overall voting by a margin of 110-106, while defending conference champion Alberta was third, with 87 points.

Here are the complete voting results, based on a 12-10-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 system (first-place votes in parentheses):

1. Victoria (6) 110

2. UBC (5) 106

3. Alberta 87

4. TWU 74

5. Saskatchewan 59

6. Calgary 56

7. Fraser Valley 50

8. Lethbridge 33

9. Mount Royal 28

10. Winnipeg 22

11. UNBC 13

Receiving top marks from conference coaches, the UVic Vikes have won seven conference championships, including 2011, and three CIS titles since 1996, a winning tradition that has remained steady for 25-year head coach Bruce Wilson’s side.

After losing just once all season, the UBC Thunderbirds fell victim to a numbers game when they placed second at last year’s Canada West Final Four. With third-place Victoria in as host, the only other berth went to the conference champion. The T-Birds have qualified for the post-season every year since 2005.

The Alberta Golden Bears picked a good time to step it up last season, claiming their 10th conference championship in team history. They went on to place fourth at Nationals. Alberta has made the playoffs every year since 2001.

Ranked fourth in the preseason poll are the Trinity Western Spartans, which looked headed for great things until losing their final four matches of 2011, including two straight at the Canada West Final Four. With three conference banners in the last eight years, TWU is always a top contender.

The Saskatchewan Huskies, Calgary Dinos and Fraser Valley Cascades were bunched together fifth, sixth and seventh in the men’s soccer coaches’ poll. While the Huskies and Dinos look for a return to playoffs in the expanded post-season format after missing out in 2011, the Cascades have never made the second-season since joining the conference in 2006 and won just one match all of last season.

With no more than four wins in any season since 1983, the Lethbridge Pronghorns rank just ahead of three new Canada West men’s soccer schools. The Calgary-based Mount Royal Cougars completed their final season in ACAC with a 5-3-1 record, while the Winnipeg Wesmen won the last two Manitoba Colleges Athletics Conference championships and the UNBC Timberwolves, out of Prince George, were 6-2-4 in PacWest play one year ago.

A complete 2012 Canada West men’s soccer preview will be released on Thursday.

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