A deadly Harry Shipp set piece kept Zach Steffen and Alex Shinsky from tasting College Cup victory at PPL Park in December, but both return to the University of Maryland Terrapins this fall looking for a repeat trip to college soccer's season-ending tournament.
They'll have to do it without two-time Hermann Trophy winner Patrick Mullins, and the path to college glory will go through the Big 10, but Sasho Cirovski's boys are poised to be in the picture again with a preseason number 2 ranking and a first-team preseason Best XI nod by Top Drawer Soccer for Steffen.
Freshman defender Patrick Berneski reported to camp on Aug. 13 for the defending national champions and preseason number 1 Notre Dame. The 6-foot-3 center back from Warrington, Pennsylvania is one of three newcomers to the ACC this year with Union Academy experience. Freshman midfielder Noah Snyder is prepping for his first year at Duke and midfielder Tyler Skwara is looking to impress at Boston College.
University of Virginia junior forward Darius Madison is poised to continue the scoring form he found leading up to last year's College Cup and continued over the summer with a stint at Reading United AC in USL PDL. The Philadelphia native found the back of the net six times for United and added an assist in seven games. With playmaker Jordan Allen off to Real Salt Lake as a Homegrown signing, Madison will be relied on heavily to lead the Hoos alongside standout Eric Bird. Top Drawer Soccer has Madison on its preseason third team (he's first team at College Sports Madness) and the coaches poll puts Virginia number 3 so big things are expected in Charlottesville.
Virginia rivals university of North Carolina (preseason number 22) will also be fighting for the ACC crown, hopefully with the services of sophomore defender/midfielder Colton Storm on a more regular basis. Storm played well in limited action last year but struggled with injuries he'll hope to overcome in his second year in Chapel Hill.
ACC newcomers University of Louisville will be opening a brand new $18.5 million stadium later this month and will also have a new weapon on the defensive side of the ball in junior midfielder/defender Shane Campbell, a transfer from Penn State.
The Nittany Lions are still stocked with Union talent in sophomore forward Connor Maloney, redshirt junior midfielder Michael Gonzalez and redshirt sophomore midfielder Christian Kaschak and will look to make good on their number 15 preseason ranking in a conference that has bolstered its schedule with the addition of Maryland and Rutgers.
The Big 10 also has redshirt sophomore defender/midfielder Andrew Herr at Michigan State (preseason number 10) and sophomore defender Billy McConnell at Indiana Union fans will want to keep an eye on this season.
Georgetown lost their star player in local lad Steve Neumann but return enough firepower to earn a number. 9 preseason ranking. The Hoyas will look to sophomore forward Brett Campbell to replace some of the scoring of Neumann while supporting Hermann Trophy hopeful Brandon Allen in the attack and junior defender Keegan Rosenberry (College Sports Mandess preseason all-Big East second team) to contribute to a defense anchored by Hermann Trophy hopeful Joshua Yaro. Junior forward Melvin Snoh and sophomore midfielder Jon Azzinnari will fight for minutes while contributing from the bench.
Sophomore defender Todd Pratzner at Xavier and junior midfielder Brandon Savino at St. John's will also factor into the Big East season as challengers to favorites Georgetown and Marquette.
Brothers Thomas Shiiba, a junior forward and Mark Shiiba, a sophomore defender, are back for the number 25 ranked Navy and Dartmouth freshman midfielder/forward Matthew Greer (not to be confused with Wright State's Matthew Greer) will join junior midfielder Alex Murphy at Penn and Yale sophomore forward Cameron Kirdzik in the Ivy League. Kirdzik, who scored four goals and added three assists last year, was recently named second team preseason all-Ivy League by College Sports Madness.
Other newcomers to Division I from the Union Academy ranks include defender Joe Harding at Fairfield, defender Ryan Talbot at South Florida (Bradford Jones committed to South Florida but isn't listed on the roster) and forward Doyle Tuvesson at Lehigh. Newcomers to Division II include forward Brett Glasco, who is prepping for his first season at West Chester (he is listed as Ben Glasco on the roster) and Eric Gutierez, a freshman at Philadelphia University.
Other returners in Division I include junior forward Jared Martinelli at Temple, sophomore midfielders Colton Amidon and Zach Herstek at George Mason, junior goalkeeper Sam Frymier at Duquesne, junior midfielder/defender Joe Farrell at La Salle, redshirt sophomore forward Chad Craig and redshirt sophomore defender Jonathan Wenger at Elon, junior defender Quincy Thomas at Memphis, junior midfielder/forward Kyle Bitterman at Fordham, redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Kyle Morton at James Madison, junior forward and St. John's transfer Jelani Williams and senior defender Matt Jeffery at Monmouth, redshirt freshman midfielder Connor Ryan at Drexel and sophomore midfielder Colin O'Neill at Colgate.
Returners in Division III include junior forward Cam Alexander at Lebanon Valley and junior goalkeeper Thomas Bull at Amhurst College.