Winning its first Lone Star Conference championship last fall didn't seem to earn the Eastern New Mexico University men's soccer squad much respect.
The Greyhounds were picked for last in the four-team league this season, even though they return a significant amount of talent from last year's 9-4-5 (3-1-2 LSC) squad.
Still, fifth-year coach Harold Munoz knows things could be tough — at least for a while. Senior midfielder Kal Herbert of Willaston, England, will miss the season with a broken foot while junior midfielder Andy Wilkinson (hyperextended ankle ligaments) of Lewes, East Sussex, England and senior defender Renan Fernades (turf toe) of Rio de Janeiro are likely out 2-3 weeks.
"I think we have a pretty decent team," said Munoz, himself a native of Colombia. "We have some young guys looking to step up. The next couple of weeks, we'll find out what kind of depth we have."
ENMU opens the season today against Newman in Wichita, Kan., then travels to Adams State on Sunday for the first of a home-and-home within a week against the Grizzlies.
Munoz is hoping sophomore Abayneh Crosby of Houston can fill in for Herbert, and is also looking for senior defender Michael Stewart of Katy, Texas and junior midfielder Julian Roberts of Rio Rancho to come up big, among others.
"We have some returners that we hope can step up this year and be key players," Munoz said.
Senior forward Diego Santos of Natal, Brazil, should contribute after missing most of last season due to injury. Junior midfielder Cantu Palombo of Albuquerque and Chris Marrone of Tucson, Ariz., are transfers being counted on by Munoz.
He expects the LSC race to be interesting, noting that Midwestern State will have a number of new faces this season while Incarnate Word — which will be out of the LSC in all sports in two years — will bring in transfers to replace personnel losses.
August: 31 — at Newman, 5 p.m.
September: 2 — at Adams State, 1 p.m.; 4 — St.Mary's, 2 p.m.; 7 — Colorado State-Pueblo, 4 p.m.; 9 — Adams State, 11 a.m.; 12 — at University of the Southwest, 3 p.m.; 15 — at Dallas Baptist, 4 p.m.; 17 — at Southern Nazarene, noon; 19 — Wayland Baptist, 4 p.m.; 27 — West Texas A&M, 3 p.m.-x.
October: 1 — University of the Southwest, 3 p.m.; 5 — at Fort Hays State, 1 p.m.; 8 — Texas-Permian Basin, 3 p.m.; 19 — Midwestern State, 3 p.m.-x; 21 — Incarnate Word, 1 p.m.-x; 26 — at West Texas A&M, 6 p.m.-x.
November: 2 — at Incarnate Word, 6:30 p.m.-x; 4 — at Midwestern State, noon-x.
All times Mountain. x-Denotes Lone Star Conference matches.