SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Two-time defending Southern Conference champion Air Force was picked to win the league again in 2018 in a vote of the eight league head coaches. The coaches also picked a 16-member preseason All-Southern Conference team, with the Falcons claiming a league-best six selections.
Coaches were not permitted to vote for their own teams or student-athletes.
Air Force earned 47 points in the preseason poll, picking up six first-place votes, while Richmond was second with 43 points and claimed the remaining two first-place votes. Both teams have earned national recognition in the preseason, with Air Force checking in at No. 17 in the USILA/Nike Lacrosse Preseason Coaches Poll and Richmond earning a No. 20 preseason ranking from Inside Lacrosse.
The Falcons and Spiders have met in each of the last two SoCon tournament finals, with Air Force emerging victorious both times.
Furman, under the direction of 2017 SoCon Coach of the Year Richie Meade, was third with 37 points in the poll. Air Force, Richmond and Furman shared the SoCon regular-season title last year, each finishing with a 6-1 league record.
Jacksonville was slotted fourth with 28 points, followed closely by High Point with 25. Bellarmine was sixth with 21 points, with Mercer (16) and VMI (seven) rounding out the poll.
Seven of the eight teams were represented on the preseason All-SoCon team, which featured 16 players because of three ties in the voting. A short stick midfielder was added to the team this season.
Nick Hruby and Chris Walsch of Air Force and Richmond’s Teddy Hatfield earned preseason honors at attacker after each took first-team all-conference honors in 2017. Walsch, the two-time defending SoCon Player of the Year, led the league in overall points (64) and goals (36), while Hatfield was the SoCon leader in goals per game (2.06) and points per game (3.69). Hruby was second in overall goals (35) and third in overall points (45).
Furman had a pair of midfielders on the preseason team in William Holcomb and Lou Yovino. Yovino, the 2017 SoCon Freshman of the Year, scored 26 goals last year to rank fifth in the conference with 1.73 per game. Air Force’s Grant Gould and Jacksonville’s McLean Chicquen, who also both finished in the top 10 in goals per game in the SoCon last season, round out the midfielders.
The Falcons’ Brandon Jones, the 2016 SoCon Freshman of the Year, headlines the four defensemen on the squad. He led the SoCon with 86 total ground balls and finished third with 4.78 per game last season. Bellarmine’s Kevin Fahey, High Point’s Terrell Sands and VMI’s Kyle Walsh also earned nods on defense.
Furman’s Alec Van de Bovenkamp was the preseason selection at goalkeeper. An all-freshman selection and the second-team all-conference pick last year, Van de Bovenkamp finished second in the league with a .559 save percentage and fourth with an 8.50 goals against average.
Air Force junior Trent Harper was the pick at faceoff specialist after earning first-team all-conference honors at the position in 2017. Harper was second last season in faceoff percentage at .580 and fifth in ground balls per game (4.56).
Joe Matarazzo of Air Force and Ryan Beville share the distinction of being the first short stick midfielders on the preseason squad. Richmond’s Austin Cates, a two-time all-conference selection, earned the preseason nod at long stick midfielder.
The 2018 Southern Conference men’s lacrosse season gets under way , when Furman hosts Vermont at SoCon teams will face several ranked squads in the first 10 days of the season, with three squads playing at No. 2 Duke in the early going – Air Force on , High Point on and Jacksonville on . Furman will visit No. 9 North Carolina and Air Force will host No. 4 Denver on .
2018 Preseason Southern Conference Coaches Poll
Team (1st-place votes) Total
- Air Force (6) 47
- Richmond (2) 43
- Furman 37
- Jacksonville 28
- High Point 25
- Bellarmine 21
- Mercer 16
- VMI 7
2018 Preseason All-Southern Conference team
A Nick Hruby, Air Force
A Chris Walsch, Air Force
A Teddy Hatfield, Richmond
M Grant Gould, Air Force
M William Holcomb, Furman
M Lou Yovino, Furman
M McLean Chicquen, Jacksonville
D Brandon Jones, Air Force
D Kevin Fahey, Bellarmine
D Terrell Sands, High Point
D Kyle Walsh, VMI
GK Alec Van de Bovenkamp, Furman
FO Trent Harper, Air Force
SSM Joe Matarazzo, Air Force
SSM Ryan Beville, Jacksonville
LSM Austin Cates, Richmond