No. 17 Coastal unanimous pick to win Big South title

The 17th-ranked Coastal Carolina men’s soccer team has been unanimously voted first in the Big South Conference’s annual preseason poll, as voted by the league’s head men’s soccer coaches, it was announced today by the league office.

In addition, the coaches voted Chanticleer forward Ashton Bennett the League’s Preseason Attacking Player of the Year and Coastal defender Kjartan Sigurdsson the Preseason Defensive Player of the Year.

Bennett, a senior forward from Clarendon, Jamaica, was a M.A.C. Herman Trophy Semifinalist and was named a first team All-American by the NSCAA after the 2011 campaign.  The 2011 Big South Attacking Player of the Year and All-South Atlantic Region first team selection, Bennett ranked first in the NCAA with 23 goals, 53 points and 2.41 points per game.  He also finished the season ranked second in the nation with 1.05 goals per game.  Bennett was tabbed the Top Drawer Soccer National Player of the Week on Oct. 24 and was twice named to the College Soccer News National Team of the Week.  Bennett posted a six-game scoring streak during the 2011 season where he totaled nine scores and two assists to finish the streak with 20 points.  He put in nine game winners a season ago and tallied seven multi-goal games and a pair of hat-tricks.  Bennett collected 10 of 11 possible first-place bids to finish with 21 points.

Sigurdsson, a sophomore defender from Fludir, Iceland, was named the Big South Freshman of the Year and was a first team All-Big South selection during the 2011 season.  He helped the Coastal Carolina defense hold opponents to just 9.9 shots per game during the 2011 campaign.  A key backline defender, Sigurdsson aided the Chanticleer defense to allow just 22 goals in 22 games, including seven shutouts during the 2011 season.  He was named to the CCU Invitational and Coastal Carolina Tournament All-Tournament Teams and scored his first collegiate goal against 2011 College Cup Runner-Up Charlotte.  Sigurdsson collected five first-place votes to finish with 12 points.  In addition, earlier this fall Sigurdsson was named one of 10 Sophomores To Watch by Top Drawer Soccer.

Coastal Carolina, which looks to capture its second Big South Championship in three years and 11th overall, was a unanimous selection as it collected all 11 first-place votes and 121 points, ahead of High Point which finished with 99 points. Campbell came in at the No. 3 position with 94 points, followed by Liberty at No. 4 with 88 points.  Gardner-Webb landed at No. 5 with 70 points and in at No. 6 was Radford with 68 points.  Winthrop garnered 50 points to finish at in the seventh slot and Big South new-comer Longwood found itself at No. 8 with 48 points.  UNC Asheville’s 39 points was good for No. 9 and Presbyterian College finished 10th in the voting with 25 points.  VMI rounded out the list with 24 points.

The Chanticleers were the 2011 Big South regular season champions and earned an at-large selection to the NCAA Tournament. In the NCAA Tournament, Coastal Carolina downed Elon at home before falling to the eventual National Champion North Carolina in the second round. The Chanticleers finished last season unscathed in the Big South with a 9-0-0 record and an 18-4 overall mark.

The Chants travel to preseason No. 1 North Carolina in rematch of the second round of the 2011 NCAA Tournament, which was won 3-2 by the Tar Heels, for an exhibition game on Saturday, Aug. 18. The squad will open the regular season six days later on Friday, Aug. 24, as hosts to Big South Conference newcomer Longwood.

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