The reigning champions have been picked as favorites for the title again.
William and Mary’s men’s soccer team is the preseason favorite to win the Colonial Athletic Association championship title for a second straight year.
Despite a daunting schedule including games against Atlantic Coast Conference champion and College Cup semi-finalist North Carolina, as well as Sun Belt champion and NCAA Tournament team Coastal Carolina, CAA soccer coaches favor William and Mary.
“It’s an honor, but it doesn’t mean anything until we start playing games,” head coach Chris Norris said in a Tribe Athletics video.
Eight of nine coaches in the CAA ranked the Tribe as the top team in 2018.
The next highest rated team, the University of North Carolina Wilmington, earned just one first-place vote.
“I think the team that wins the championship the year before is always given a lot of consideration for that preseason pick,” Norris said. “But it’s also a testament to the group that we have and the fact that we have three first team preseason picks.”
Tribe senior midfielder Antonio Bustamante was unanimously picked by coaches in the preseason to be the top player in the CAA in 2018.
Bustamante is just the third men’s soccer player in the history of the CAA to be picked as the top player in consecutive seasons, joining American University’s Michael Brady (1984-1985) and Old Dominion University’s Attila Vendegh (2001-2002).
On Aug. 9, Bustamante was nominated for the Missouri Athletic Club Hermann Trophy. He was named a consensus All-American for the 2017 season after he led the Tribe to their eighth CAA championship.
“Antonio has improved every year,” Norris said. “He is playing the best soccer that I think he has ever played.”
Two classmates join Bustamante as preseason all-CAA picks: Ryder Bell and Marcel Berry. The trio earned the honor for the third straight season.
In 2017, Bustamante was named both CAA and Virginia Sports Information Directors player of the year, earning a place among the top six players in the country with 15 goals and 35 points.
Top Drawer Soccer ranked Bustamante fifth best in all of collegiate soccerTop Drawer Soccer.
Last season, Bustamante also was named the Most Outstanding Performer of the CAA Tournament.
Last season, Bell, tallied seven goals and 24 points.
Top Drawer Soccer ranked Bell third best among CAA players.
Berry’s accolades include second team All-CAA honors, CAA Rookie of the Year in 2015 and 56 starts in 58 game appearances.
“We have a really good blend of experienced guys and a big group of new guys,” Norris said. “The older guys have done really well by leading by example, setting expectations and everybody’s been tuned into our plans and how we want to do things. I think so far (preseason) has been successful.”
The Tribe hosts George Mason University at 7 p.m. Aug. 18 at Martin Family Stadium in their only exhibition.
Men’s Soccer 2018 Schedule
William and Mary versus George Mason Patriots at 7 p.m. on Aug. 18.
William and Mary versus Saint Joseph’s at 7 p.m. on Aug. 24.
William and Mary at Villanova at 4 p.m. on Aug. 27.
William and Mary versus North Carolina at 7 p.m. on Aug. 31.
William and Mary at N.C. State at 7 p.m. on Sept. 3.
William and Mary at Loyola at 7 p.m. on Sept. 7.
William and Mary versus Longwood Lancers at 7 p.m. on Sept. 11.
William and Mary versus Charleston at 7 p.m. on Sept. 17.
William and Mary at Maryland at 7 p.m. on Sept. 17.
William and Mary versus Coastal Carolina at 7 p.m. on Sept. 21.
William and Mary at Elon at 7 p.m. on Sept. 26.
William and Mary at Hofstra at 7 p.m. on Sept. 29.
William and Mary at Old Dominion at 7 p.m. on Oct. 3.
William and Mary versus Northeastern at 7 p.m. on Oct. 6.
William and Mary versus James Madison at 7 p.m. on Oct. 10.
William and Mary at Delaware at 8 p.m. on Oct. 13.
William and Mary at Virginia Tech at 7 p.m. on Oct. 16.
William and Mary versus Drexel at 7 p.m. on Oct. 20.
William and Mary at UNCW at 7 p.m. on Oct. 27.
All home games are played at Martin Family Stadium at Albert-Daly Field
Roberts can be reached at 757-604-1329 or on Twitter @SPRobertsJr.