Coming off its first NJCAA Tournament appearance in five years, the Marshalltown Community College men's soccer team has the attention of opposing coaches heading into the new season.
Taking fifth at the national tourney, the Tigers enter the 2013 campaign ranked No. 15 in the preseason national rankings.
"We appreciate the confidence that other coaches have put into our team," MCC coach Rafael Martinez said.
"The ranking indicates the recent success our program has demonstrated. It is up to our current players to build upon that success."
The Tigers closed the 2012 campaign at 14-6-2 after a 1-1 showing in Albany, Ga. MCC lost to eventual national champion Tyler Junior College (TX), which enters atop the 2013 preseason poll.
MCC captured the 2012 Region XI Championship to earn their first bid to the national tourney since 2007 and received a final ranking of No. 9. The Tigers return eight players from last year's squad.
As usual, the Tigers have some familiar company in the rankings.
Fellow Region XI opponent Iowa Western enters 2013 at No. 6 in the preseason poll. The Reivers posted a 17-1-1 record last year, with their only loss coming against MCC in the Region XI Championship game. The two teams meet at Iowa Western on Sept 11.
Iowa Central was one of 12 teams that also received votes. The Tigers trumped the Tritons in the semifinal round of the Region XI Tournament and will host Iowa Central on Oct. 1.
"Having three teams nationally ranked prior to the start of the season just goes to show how competitive our conference is," Martinez said.
"As a team we look forward to the challenge."
Marshalltown's Jose Gomez is one of eight returnees and nine sophomores, while the Tigers welcome a 19-member freshman class. Among the first year players are three Central Iowa preps including Des Moines East's Jok Ruot, Nevada's Austin See and Ballard's John Krause.
The Tigers host Luther College in their season opener Thursday at 4 p.m.