For the first time in eight years, the Florida Southern men's soccer team has landed in the United Soccer Coaches National Poll, with the Moccasins at No. 18 in the September 18 rankings. The Mocs have earned that spot following their first 5-0 start since 1997, which included shutout wins over Trinity Baptist, South Carolina Aiken, Montevallo (AL), and Newberry (SC) to start the season before a 2-1 overtime win at then-No. 15 Lynn on Saturday.
Now in their second season under head coach Jason Carlson, the Moccasins were receiving votes in last week's poll before defeating last year's Division II national runner-up in their only game of the week. That not only gave them a 5-0 record for the first time in 21 years, it also marked just the third time in team history they have started a season with five consecutive wins. The 1997 team under former Moccasin goalkeeper Kris Pahl holds the school record for the best perfect start with eight in a row. The Moccasins also started 5-0 in 1970.
Through the first five games this season, Florida Southern has out-scored its opponents 17-1. Only once in the last 20 years has Florida Southern scored more goals through five games, and the Mocs had never allowed as few as one during the first five. They rank third in the country with a 0.198 goals against average. Dating back to last season, the Mocs have put together a school-record streak of 12 consecutive games allowing either one goal or no goals. Sophomore Benny Yusufoglu (the reigning SSC Defensive Player-of-the-Week) has been in goal for all of those games, while senior Daniel Moore, junior Foster Appiah, and sophomore Jake Starling have been starting defenders for the vast majority of them. This year they've been joined by junior transfer Claus Lehland as a regular starter on the back line.
With Florida Southern averaging 3.40 goals per game to rank ninth nationally in that department, nine different players have embraced the net this season, led by junior Jacob Ling-Vannerus, who had four goals and nine points in the first four games. Junior Christoph Gums, sophomore James Meehan, and junior Ian McIntosh have all scored at least twice, and it was Meehan's goal in overtime that gave Florida Southern its 2-1 victory at Lynn, earning him the SSC Offensive Player-of-the-Week award. The Mocs also have a trio of players who are tied for the second most assists in the SSC, with McIntosh, senior Pablo Gallo Arias, and senior Georg Michajlov all picking up three. That puts Florida Southern second in the nation as a team in assists per game, trailing only Palm Beach Atlantic.
The last time Florida Southern reached the top-25 was on September 15, 2010. Under head coach Hugh Seyfarth, the Mocs had started 4-0-1 to earn the No. 23 spot in the poll, but had a short stay after a 2-1 loss to Eckerd. Prior to that, the Mocs had last been nationally ranked in 1999 when they spent half the season in the top-25 and reached as high as No. 18 in late September of that year. That remains their high-water mark in the national polls, a spot they reached again this week.
In addition to the national poll, Florida Southern climbed to No. 3 this week in the United Soccer Coaches South Region poll. Palm Beach Atlantic remained No. 1, and Rollins is No. 2.
Florida Southern will put its new ranking on the line against another top-25 opponent on Wednesday night when it hosts No. 14 Rollins at 7 p.m. at Moccasin Field. It will be the first time the Mocs have faced another nationally ranked team as a top-25 team themselves since October 6, 1999, when they dropped a 1-0 decision to No. 2 Barry at Barnett Field. Ironically, the last time Florida Southern started a season 5-0, its sixth game was also against Rollins, and the Mocs posted a 1-0 win over the Tars at Barnett Field that night.