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Cougar men are runners-up in coaches' poll

Winners of four of the last six Upper Midwest Athletic Conference (UMAC) championships, the College of St. Scholastica was the overwhelming favorite to win the conference title again in 2010, according to a preseason poll of the league's coaches. 

The Saints, who won the UMAC regular season in 2007 and 2008, fell one game shy of the conference crown last season as a tie separated St. Scholastica and the University of Minnesota, Morris in the final league standings.

Following St. Scholastica in the poll was UMM. Last year's conference champions, the Cougars lost a lot of offensive firepower in its top four scorers and will return just four starters from a year ago. Toby Glaser will lead the Cougars' offense after notching seven points on two goals and three assists last season. Midfielder Matt Johnson will also be looked upon for leadership, having started 20 games and tallying five points in 2009. Tyler Weber and Tyler Simpson each return in net in 2010 after combining for all of the team's 16 wins and 12 shutouts a year ago. Weber allowed just four goals and had a GAA of 0.36, while Simpson allowed just five and finished with a GAA of 0.51. 

Scott Turnbull takes over the interim head coaching duties this year after the departure of Christian DeVries. Turnbull served as an assistant coach with both the UMM men's and women's teams for the last several seasons.

With the UMAC's first-ever automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament on the line in 2010, the Cougars and Saints will battle to the end.

For St. Scholastica, 11 seniors fill the Saints' roster, led by two-time UMAC Player of the Year Toby Peter. Peter will be joined once again by first team All-UMAC choices Greg Doornink and Brandon Stemwedel, along with honorable mention selections Jermaine Dacres and Dustin James. Defensively, first team selection Ian Linder will be back to protect another first team selection, goalkeeper Sam Reed. 

Northwestern College fell one point short of tying for second with UMM. Northwestern posted a 7-6-1 UMAC record in 2009. The Eagles lost nearly half of last year's starters to graduation, so the team's starting 11 will have somewhat of a different look. On offense, Northwestern returns last season's leading scorer in Sam Mann. Jeremy Stiner is Northwestern's next-highest returning goal scorer. Junior Joel Ottley brings speed and agility to the pitch. Junior Josh Niedermayer is the likely fill-in in the starting goalkeeper spot, taking over for the departed Danny King.

Bethany Lutheran College finished the 2009 campaign with a 5-9 UMAC record. This year's Viking squad returns every player who scored last season including first team all-conference midfielders Felipe Ortega and Evans Tackie-Yarboi.  All-conference honorable mention Joe Nuah also returns. In addition to its core group of returning players, Bethany Lutheran welcomed 11 newcomers to camp a week ago. Freshman Johnny Luna and all-conference player Chase Kappel are expected to make an immediate impact in 2010. In between the pipes, senior Cameron Koopman will be vying for the starting spot after the departure of Will Tatge.

Presentation College and Crown College finished fifth and sixth, respectively. Both teams will welcome new head coaches in 2010 - Evan Ormand at Presentation and Art Busha at Crown.  Presentation returns nine starters from a year ago when the Saints went 3-7-3 in conference play. Key returners to Presentation's roster include seniors Andre Peterson, Anthony Hruby, Joe Romero and Kris Harry. Striker Brandon Spanier is a two-time all-conference honorable mention award winner. Newcomer Cameron Hammrich will be looking for playing time as a freshman.

After posting the program's first winning UMAC record, Crown returns six of seven goal-scorers from last season including forwards Mark Matson and Jon Schultz. Overall, Crown returns an experienced squad that features eight returners who have started at least 14 games. Busha will lean on that experience as he welcomes in eight new members to the roster.

Martin Luther College struggled at 2-10-2 in conference play last year. Head Coach Paul Koelpin returns a number of young players that showed progress in the 2009 season. Leading the group of returning players on offense are Nathan Gurgel and Joey Molyneaux. Levi Dunsmoor and John Paustian also return, giving the Knights some experience up front. On defense, Martin Luther brings back three key players in Steve White, Julius Buelow and Ben Schone. The Knights are also looking forward to getting Andrew Danner back after the defenseman missed last year's season with an injury.

Northland College will continue to use youth to build its program after finishing 2-11 in the UMAC standings last season. Head Coach Scott Mayforth, who enters his 21st season at the team's helm in 2010, hopes to bounce back after the LumberJacks lost five conference games by one goal a year ago. Ben Hughey will once again anchor the LumberJacks' defense, offering leadership and the ability to clog opposing offenses. Matt Lamb joins Hughey as key returner. Juniors Matt Larson and Hunter Shira will battle for the starting goalkeeper position after first team all-conference performer Matt Fryer graduated. Freshmen Nick Peterson, Travis Patterson and Callien Godshlak headline a talented group of newcomers for Northland.

All eight UMAC teams will be in action beginning on Sept. 1, with the conference schedule kicking off on Sept. 14. Following the 2010 regular season, the league's top four schools will compete in the now-very important UMAC Conference Tournament on Nov. 2 and 6 as the tournament champion will receive the automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament.