St. Joseph’s College men’s soccer team is ranked second in the Skyline Conference preseason coaches poll, finishing behind defending champion Mount Saint Mary College.
The Golden Eagles received 78 points and two first-place votes while the Knights received 97 votes and nine first-place votes to take the top spot in the annual poll.
Rounding out the top five is U.S. Merchant Marine Academy (71 points), SUNY Maritime College (64 points) and Farmingdale State College and College of Mount Saint Vincent, which tied for fifth place in the poll with 62 points each.
St. Joseph’s comes into the 2018 season looking to build off 2017 when the team reached the Skyline Conference championship game where it fell to Mount Saint Mary 1-0.
The Golden Eagles are now under the guidance of first-year head coach Jason Organ and have its four top scorers from last season returning.
Highlighting the returners from last season, which in total includes 11 players, is junior forward Rayneri Ruiz of Bay Shore, who led the team in goals (13) and points (31) and ranked first in the conference in total shots (86). Ruiz was named All-ECAC Honorable Mention and Skyline All-Conference First-Team honors.
Joining Ruiz on the attack will be junior Damian Duda of Riverhead, who contributed a team-high seven assists a year ago, sophomore Alex Tarach of Selden (3 goals, 11 points) and fifth-year senior Hauppauge’s Justin Busto, who has scored 14 times in 55 appearances at St. Joseph’s.
On defense, senior Marc Ceruti of Shoreham and junior Jayvid Parra of Brentwood return to a back line that recorded five clean sheets, and in the midfield, senior Kyle Conway of Holbrook is set to reprise his role as general.
The six-team 2018 Skyline Conference Men’s Soccer Championship starts October 27 with first-round contests, while the top two seeds receive byes to the October 31 semifinal round. The championship final will take place November 3, with the victor earning the Skyline’s automatic bid to the 2018 NCAA Division III Men’s Soccer Championship.