The Bisons received one first place vote. The conference coaches vote on the poll and on the preseason all-conference team.
“I think it is more of a testament of what we have done in the past,” said fifth- year Bisons coach Charles Morrow. “I think our guys understand that. They still have a lot to prove this year.
“On one hand it feels good to have the recognition, but on the other hand the `X’ on our backs just got a little bit bigger. That is just part of what happens in the transition of a program going from one that was really not competitive to one that is competing for a conference championship on a yearly basis.”
The Bisons have advanced to the semifinals of the Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament the past two seasons. They were 10-8-3 overall last season, the first winning season in the history of the program. They finished third in the Atlantic Sun with a 5-3-1, the second season in a row they have turned in a winning worksheet. Both the 10 wins overall and the five victories in the conference are program highs.
“At some point you stop being overlooked,” said Morrow. “Teams are gearing up for us. We are marked on their schedules.
“It is a situation where we know we are going to get the best out of the people we play against. That is good. We will continue to get better because of that. Consistency will become more and more important to us.”
Junior forward Miguel DaSilva, a First Team All-Atlantic Sun selection last season, was named A-Sun Preseason Player of the Year, also a first for the program.
“I think it is fair based on what he has done the past two years,” said Morrow. “I had a couple of conversations with coaches over the summer. I was expecting this.
“If you look at his body of work over the past couple of years, no one has put up the numbers that he has. But Miguel’s eyes are fixed on what is ahead of him. It feels good for him to be recognized in this way, but he knows what lies ahead for him this year and he is focused on that.”
Despite DaSilva’s numbers, which included nine goals and 11 assists last season, Morrow stresses he does not concentrate on individual goals. “Although the accolades are nice, and he is certainly deserving, how we do as a team at the end is what is most important to him,” said Morrow. “He has numbers he wants to reach, but he had no goals of individual accolades. His main goal is for us to reach the NCAA Tournament.”
DaSilva relies on his knowledge of the game and his quickness in giving him an edge.
“Miguel is so dangerous one vs. one. You can’t stop Miguel from getting by you,” said Morrow. “You might take the ball from him, but if he gets isolated during a game then two out of three times he is going to get behind the defender.
“He is just so good getting to the goal and creating opportunities. Not only does he create a lot for himself, but he creates a lot for others. He is a pretty good passer, but he also draws so much attention to himself.”
Joining DaSilva on the A-Sun Preseason All-Conference Team are senior defender Kezi Lara, a second team All-Conference selection in 2008; and sophomore forward Garret Pettis, the 2008 A-Sun Freshman of the Year and a member of both the A-Sun All-Conference Second Team and the A-Sun All-Freshman Team. Pettis tied for the conference lead in goals scored with 12.
Lara is known as one of the top defensive players in the conference, especially in one-on-one situations.
“It is encouraging to have three players on the preseason team,” said Morrow. “Kezi’s placement there might be overdue. Kezi is quick and fast and can cover a lot of ground. If he gets out of position he can still recover. He is one of the strongest players on the field. He carries himself very well and knows how to use his body very well in terms of protecting the ball.
“He has played at a very high level. He has seen world class competition playing for the U-17 national team for Trinidad and Tobago. He takes pride in the fact that one vs. one no one is going to get by him. Whether he is dribbling or defending he is a great one vs. one player. A lot of times being a good defensive player is just a matter of character and who you are.”
Pettis tied for the conference lead in goals scored with 12. He also set a new single-season record for goals scored by a Bisons player.
“Garret Pettis had an unbelievable season for us last year,” said Morrow. “He scored some great goals and did a lot for us. But he would be the first to tell you that without the cast around him that would never have happened.
“Garret is a team guy. He is not someone who is going to get caught up in his numbers. As long as we are doing well and progressing he is not going to be caught up in trying to duplicate what he has done.”