Posted By Press Democrat Staff Writer Michael Coit:
Coming off a fourth consecutive NCAA appearance, the Sonoma State men’s soccer team enters the 2011 season nationally ranked.
Led by returning top scorers and former Empire prep standouts Trevor Hurst and Taylor Varnadore, the Seawolves are ranked No. 21 in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America Division II Preseason Top 25 poll.
Sonoma State opens hosting three exhibitions on the Seawloves field in Rohnert Park: Thursday against the University of San Francisco; Aug. 21 against Santa Rosa Junior College; and Aug. 27 against the Sonoma County Sol, a Santa Rosa semi-pro team.
Regular season play begins Sept. 1 with Academy of Art University coming to Rohnert Park, with Notre Dame de Namur following Sept. 6 to close the non-conference schedule.
After opening California Collegiate Athletic Association play Sept. 9 at Chico State, the Seawolves host Humboldt State Sept. 11 as Sonoma State aims to defend its conference title.
Much of the Seawolves team returns from last season’s 14-6-1 campaign.
Entering his senior season is Hurst, last year’s leading scorer with 10 goals — three game winners — and 7 assists. Hurst, from Piner High and Santa Rosa Junior College, was a NCAA Division II All-West Region First Team selection.
Right behind in the scoring column was Varnadore in just his first season out of Analy High. Varnadore tallied 10 goals — four game winners — and 4 assists to earn NCAA Division II All-West Region Third Team honors.
A handful of fellow Empire prep soccer players also played significant minutes in getting Sonoma State to the NCAA playoffs for the fifth time in six seasons.
Leading that group are goalkeeper Juan Sosa, from Elsie Allen High, midfielder Nico Spann, Montgomery High, midfielder-defender Justin Ferreira, Montgomery, and forward Erick Delgado, Roseland University Prep.
In 2010, Sonoma State finished second to Chico State in the CCAA North Division standings. Then the Seawolves defeated Cal State San Bernardino and Cal State Dominguez Hills to win the conference tournament.
An at-large selection to the NCAA tournament, the Seawolves fell at Chico State in the opening round of the West Regional.
Division II coaches have liked Sonoma State. For the fourth straight year — and fifth in six seasons — Sonoma State is ranked in the Division II preseason poll.
Topping the 2011 rankings are Northern Kentucky, Rollins (Fla.), and Midwestern State (Texas). CCAA conference rival Chico State is eighth in the poll.