Butler soccer has its highest preseason ranking ever in the program's history as the Grizzlies are ranked second in the 2016 NJCAA preseason poll, which was released Tuesday.
The Grizzlies' previous highest NJCAA preseason ranking was third, which came in 2014. Butler, one of only two Jayhawk Conference teams ranked in the opening poll, has now been ranked in the NJCAA preseason top ten for five straight seasons.
Butler received 108 votes, just four behind top-ranked Eastern Florida State, who garnered two of the six first-place votes. Butler will face Eastern Florida State in Melbourne, Fla., on Friday, Aug. 26 in just the Grizzlies' second game of the season. Rounding out the top five were Tyler (Texas), Monroe (N.Y.) and defending NJCAA national champion Iowa Central. Butler and No. 6 Darton State (Ga.) each grabbed one first-place vote, while Iowa Central received the other two.
Joining Butler in the preseason poll from the Jayhawk Conference was Johnson County at No. 13 with 46 votes. The Grizzlies shut out the Cavaliers 5-0 in last year's Region VI championship game to win their fourth straight regional title. Hutchinson received three votes and just missed being ranked in the top 20 by four votes.
The preseason poll marks the 53rd straight NJCAA poll to feature Butler in the rankings. In addition to opening in the preseason top ten the last five years, the Grizzlies have also finished in the NJCAA top ten in each of the last five seasons.
Butler has nine returners from last year's Final Four team, who finished 21-3-0 overall with a third-place finish at the NJCAA National Tournament last season. The Grizzlies return two All-KJCCC first-team selections in midfielder Lexi Clark and forward Colleen Howland, along with All-Conference second-team goalkeeper Jami Reichenberger.
Six games against NJCAA preseason ranked teams highlight the 2016 Grizzlies' schedule, beginning with the season opener at No. 20 Northern Oklahoma-Tonkawa on Monday Aug. 22. After the opener in Tonkawa, the Grizzlies travel to Melbourne, Fla., for a pair of contests - including a matchup against preseason No. 1 Eastern Florida State on Nov. 26.
Butler will play at No. 3 Tyler on Sept. 9 and host No. 12 Navarro (Texas) on Sept. 18. The Grizzlies will face No. 13 Johnson County in back-to-back contests, beginning with a home match against the Cavaliers on Oct. 9. A return meeting to Overland Park follows on Oct. 12.
Butler's first seven games are on the road and do not play at BG Products Veterans Sports Complex until Friday, Sept. 16 against Jayhawk Conference foe Cowley. Along with home games against Cowley, Navarro and Johnson County, the Grizzlies have just seven home dates - Coffeyville (Sept. 25), Allen County (Sept. 29), Kansas City Kansas (Oct. 16) and Neosho County (Oct. 23).
The first NJCAA regular season poll will be released on Wednesday, Sept. 7.
|2016 NJCAA PRESEASON TOP 20 SOCCER POLL|
|Aug. 9, 2016|
|1.||Eastern Florida State (2)||17-1-0||112|
|4.||Monroe CC, N.Y.||12-3-0||91|
|5.||Iowa Central (2)||19-1-0||89|
|6.||Darton State, Ga. (1)||16-3-0||87|
|8.||Lewis & Clark, Ill.||16-4-2||82|
|10.||Paradise Valley, Ariz.||18-3-1||67|
|15.||Spartanburg Methodist, S.C.||13-9-0||35|
|16.||Moraine Valley, Ill.||14-3-0||34|
|19.||Pearl River, Miss.||15-2-0||21|
Other schools receiving votes: Utah State Eastern (6), Indian Hills, Iowa (5), Hutchinson (3), Jones County, Miss. (3), St. Charles, Mo. (2), Georgia Military (1), Kaskaskia, Ill. (1).