AZUSA, Calif. – All 6 Azusa Pacific University fall sports programs are nationally-ranked in their respective NAIA Coaches Preseason Polls that signaled the start to the 2008 seasons.
Azusa Pacific, which is coming off its fourth straight Directors’ Cup title recognizing it as the NAIA’s best athletics program, is the only school in NAIA history to have 6 different teams ranked during the fall season. This marks the third season out the past 4 that the Cougars have accomplished such a feat. On top of that, 5 of the Cougars’ 6 fall sports are ranked in the Top Ten.
After claiming Azusa Pacific’s first-ever NAIA men’s soccer championship, the Cougars open the 2008 campaign with their first preseason No. 1 ranking. Five starters return from the 2007 NAIA title squad, including 3 of 4 starters from a defense that posted a program-record 14 shutouts in 2007, as well as senior goalkeeper James Crawford, who registered a 0.58 GAA with 10 shutouts last year.
The 2-time defending NAIA runner-up women’s soccer program appears at No. 2 in the preseason poll, its highest preseason ranking since it was ranked second in the 2003 preseason poll. Azusa Pacific received 3 out of 23 first-place votes and ranks second only to defending NAIA champion Martin Methodist (Tenn.). The Cougars have 8 returning starters, led by junior 2-time NAIA All-American first team forward Theresa Broad, who has scored 46 goals the past 2 seasons.
The women’s cross country team, which finished sixth in last year’s NAIA championship meet, begins the 2008 campaign ranked No. 2 in the nation, its highest poll slot in program history. The Cougars return 5 of their top 6 runners, including the 2 best in the NAIA, national individual champion senior Jaime Canterbury and sophomore runner-up Jacky Kipwambok.
The Cougar men’s cross country squad is ranked No. 3 in the NAIA preseason poll, which like their female colleagues is the highest ranking in program history. Azusa Pacific returns the reigning NAIA individual champion, senior Aron Rono, along with 3 of their top 4 runners.
Azusa Pacific’s volleyball program was picked fifth in the preseason poll, 1 of 7 GSAC programs appearing in the top 25. The Cougars return 5 starters from last year’s 21-10 squad, including junior NAIA All-American Jill Baker, who broke the program’s single-match and single-season kills records in 2007.
The Cougar football team rounds out the fall sports polls coming in at No. 23 in the NAIA preseason poll. Coming on strong at the end of the season, the Cougars won 5 of their final 6 games to finish 6-5 against arguably the most difficult schedule in the NAIA last year. Senior WR Jon Davis, who led the NAIA last year and was second in all of college football with a school-record 21 TD receptions, spearheads a team that returns 14 starters.