INDIANAPOLIS – The Hanover College men's soccer team has been selected as one of the preseason favorites to win the 2018 Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference championship, as the league's head coaches have predicted the Panthers to finish second this fall.
This marks the third consecutive season and fourth time in the past five years that the Panthers have been projected to finish in the top three of the HCAC. Hanover totaled 79 points in the 2018 preseason poll, while also capturing one first place vote.
Transylvania, the 2017 HCAC regular season and tournament champions, were picked by the league coaches to win the conference again this season, recording the remaining nine first place votes and 91 total points. Rose-Hulman, who has finished the past two seasons as the HCAC Tournament runner-up, tallied 78 points to round out the top three in the 2018 preseason poll.
Manchester's 68 points were good enough for fourth, while Anderson recorded 54 points for the fifth spot. Rounding out the rest of the preseason rankings were Defiance (45), Earlham (43), Mount St. Joseph (37), Franklin (35) and Bluffton (20).
Hanover has captured hardware from the HCAC in two of the past three seasons, earning their first conference regular season title in 2015 and the program's first HCAC Tournament championship and NCAA National Tournament qualification in 2016. The Blue and Red will also be in search of their fourth straight finish inside the top three of the final HCAC regular season standings after a 7-1-1 mark was good enough for third last fall.
The Panthers' overall record of 12-4-2 last season gave the program its third consecutive season with double-digit victories. The four losses also set a new program record for fewest setbacks in a single season, breaking the previous record of five, which was set in 2016 (16-5-0).
Under head coach Matt Wilkerson, the Panthers have usually bested their preseason conference prognosis. In Wilkerson's first six years at the helm, HC has improved upon their conference preseason ranking four times, including two of the past three seasons. Since 2012, when Wilkerson took the reins of the program, Hanover is 33-13-8 in conference matches, a .694 winning percentage.
Hanover is slated to open regular season play at 7 p.m., Friday, Aug. 31, when the team travels to face in-state rival DePauw.
Contact: Tyler Jester