Saints Fifth in MAAC Men's Soccer Poll

Preseason All-MAAC selection Jannis Opalka

Aug. 16, 2012 interview with head coach Gareth Elliott

After finishing last in the league a year ago, the Siena men's soccer team is expecting a bounce back year in 2012. They aren't the only ones. The Saints were picked fifth in the annual Preseason Coaches' Poll released Wednesday by the league office. Senior back Jannis Opalka was selected to the Preseason All-MAAC Team.

"It might be kind of surprising if anything given our results from last year," fifth year head coach Gareth Elliott said. "I think we maybe under-performed last year, and are certainly looking to bounce back this year with some better performances and better results. I think fifth is a good place to be right now, but obviously it's not in that top-four which would get you into the Tournament with a chance to win a Championship, and that's our ultimate goal."

Fairfield received 96 points in the poll with seven first place votes to land atop the rankings. Iona was second with 92 points, Loyola was picked third with 82 points and Marist finished in fourth place with 57 points. Siena had 53 points, and was followed closely by Niagara (52), Manhattan (38), Canisius (31), Saint Peter's (27) and Rider (22).

Opalka was an NSCAA Scholar All-American, NSCAA Scholar All-East Region pick and North Atlantic Third Team selection in 2011. He anchored a Siena defense that tied a program record with just 16 goals allowed and ranked 34th nationally with a .089 goals against average.

"Jannis will be a key to anchoring our back line which was very solid last year," Elliott said. "We had a very technically sounds team last year conceding 16 goals in 18 games, and we're looking to emulate that again this year, and he will be a big component to that."

The Saints returned to campus Monday and open their 2012 schedule in the Mike Gibbs Memorial Tournament August 24 against North Florida in Jacksonville, Fla.