The Panthers are feeling good about their prospects heading into a new soccer season, and the other coaches in the Collegiate Conference of the South share that optimism.
The conference's preseason poll was released on Wednesday, and the Panthers were picked to finish third out of seven men's teams.
Covenant, which won the USA South championship in 2021, received five first-place votes and was picked to finish first.
Maryville collected the other two first-place votes and was the number two pick, and LaGrange, Huntingdon, Piedmont, Belhaven and Berea rounded out the poll.
The Panthers, under the direction of fifth-year head coach Ryan Dickson, are hoping to build on their strong stretch to end the 2021 season.
The Panthers went 3-1-1 in their final five games to finish with a 7-5-1 record, and they closed with a 2-1 victory over Warren Wilson.
Many of the players who helped the Panthers enjoy that success have returned, including Enrique Hernandez, who scored 11 goals last season and has 21 goals for his career.
Also back is senior Blake Webb, who had five goals and eight assists in 2021, and he has 14 career goals.
The Panthers have enjoyed success in recent years, and they qualified for the USA South tournament for three straight years beginning in 2017, and they're looking to take some more steps this fall.
"We've got to get to the next level," Dickson said. "When I first came in, the first couple of years, the goal was just to make the playoffs. We started doing it, and now we've got to win playoff games, and win conference championships. That's the goal."
The Panthers have a preseason scrimmage at Oglethorpe on Saturday, and they'll open the season on Sept. 2 at home against Millsaps.
LaGrange opens conference play at Maryville on Sept. 24.
PRESEASON MEN'S SOCCER POLL
(First-place votes in parentheses)
1 – Covenant 35
2 – Maryville 30
3 – LaGrange 23
4 – Huntingdon 19
5 – Belhaven 15
6 – Berea 6
Sports Information Director Kevin Eckleberry can be reached at email@example.com.