Men’s soccer continues to climb in national polls

By Andrew Schleicher and Joseph Wetzler, Staff Writers

October 3, 2012

Rankings are an important part of collegiate sports, especially at the Division 1 level. National rankings have an important impact, not only the teams being ranked, but also on the universities as a whole. Rankings can take a little-known college or university and thrust it into the national spotlight.

The biggest example of this came in 2007 when Appalachian State defeated the fifth-ranked Michigan Wolverines in football to burst onto the national scene.  The win was monumental in the world of sports, but it was also huge in terms of the academic growth of Appalachian State.

Between 2004 and 2007, Appalachian State averaged an increase in enrollment of 322 students per year. After the 2007-08 academic year and the huge win from the football team, enrollment rose by 1,493 students.

The HPU men’s soccer team is nationally ranked for only the second time and is a potential NCAA tournament team, which could be extremely important for HPU in terms of recognition

HPU, ranked no. 27 in the nation, boasts a 9-0 record, 2-0 in the Big South, and leads the country in scoring.

Having a nationally ranked team definitely helps the recruiting for not only that team, but also other programs at the school. Potential athletes want to attend a school where students are excited about their sports program and attend games regularly. The teams needs to do well for that to happen, especially at a small school.

Other coaches also view rankings as a motivational tool. It is competitive between the HPU coaches because they all want to boast the best team.

“Success breeds success,” said Athletic Director Craig Keilitz. “Our other coaches take pride in one another and there’s competitiveness. They want the other teams to do really well and they want to do equally as well themselves.”

Fans enjoy their team because they win. Losing teams don’t generate many fans. Keilitz believes the success will draw more students to the games and more national attention to the school.

“One game at a time, stay grounded, stay humble and focus on the next opponent,” is the mantra Head Coach Dustin Fonder is preaching to his team.  So far it has worked and has got his team off to its best start since converting to Division 1.

Senior captain defender Fejiro Okiomah thinks there’s room for improvement.

“I still think we actually could get better and we have room to grow. It’s going to be great to see where we turn out this season,” said Okiomah. “[No.] 27 is just the beginning. We’re just hoping to push it a little further and break the top ten by the end of the season.”

For the seniors, this season could not be going any better. Sure they won the regular season Big South conference title in 2010, but for obvious reasons they have their eyes set on that elusive Big South Tournament championship.

Coach Fonder, the players and even the fans have high hopes for this season and it’s hard not to after watching this team play.

However, this team realizes that they have not fulfilled all of their goals to this point. They still have the majority of their conference schedule to play and know that their rival Coastal Carolina, which they will play in the regular season finale, is ranked  no. 17 in the polls.

As coach Fonder said, “One game at a time.” So instead of looking ahead to that game, let’s celebrate what our soccer team has done so far.

High Point, as a team, ranks first in the Big South in goals, points, goals per game, assists, assists per game, goals allowed, goals against average, and shutouts.

There are a special group of guys on this team and you can tell when you watch them play.

The talent, unselfishness and killer instinct that this team possesses is a recipe for success. They play together, have a tenacious defense, as well as boast one of the best offenses in the nation. When all of these ingredients are out on the field at the same time it is incredible to watch.

When it’s all said and done there could be a top ten team here at HPU. How cool would that be?