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Preview of the 2015 men’s college soccer season

North Carolina junior midfielder Omar Holness (right), shown during an exhibition against Davidson last week in Chapel Hill, is one of the Carolinas’ top men’s soccer players.
North Carolina junior midfielder Omar Holness (right), shown during an exhibition against Davidson last week in Chapel Hill, is one of the Carolinas’ top men’s soccer players. UNC ATHLETIC COMMUNICATIONS

Following is a preview of the men’s college soccer season, which starts Friday for many schools in North and South Carolina:

Players to watch

(listed alphabetically)

Kyle Fisher, junior defender, Clemson: Scored three goals last year and was a first-team All-ACC tournament team pick.

Michael Gamble, senior forward, Wake Forest: Led team with 22 points last season.

Max Hastentab, junior forward, Winthrop: Scored 12 goals last season and is preseason Big South Offensive Player of the Year.

Jordan Hill, freshman defender, Davidson: Named to Atlantic 10 preseason all-freshman team; scored in preseason game against North Carolina.

Omar Holness, junior midfielder, North Carolina: Scored nine points and was a first-team All-ACC selection in 2014.

Charlie Machell, junior forward, Wingate: South Atlantic Conference Player of the Year in 2014 with 12 goals and 28 points.

Kyle Parker, senior forward, Charlotte: Led team and conference with nine goals and 25 points last season … on the watch list for national player of the year.

Conference previews

ACC: Virginia is the preseason No. 2 team in the country, but Notre Dame (4), North Carolina (5), Clemson (11), Syracuse (15) and Louisville (18) also are ranked. The Cavaliers are the team to beat.

Atlantic 10: Davidson is picked fifth in a conference where nationally ranked Saint Louis is the favorite.

Big South: Coastal Carolina is the favorite, but Winthrop and High Point are strong challengers.

Carolinas Conference: Defending champion Limestone and Tusculum figure to battle for the title.

Colonial Athletic: Defending regular-season champion Delaware and UNC Wilmington are ranked 1-2 in the preseason conference poll.

Conference USA: Charlotte is picked to win, with New Mexico and Kentucky challenging. The Mountain West and SEC conferences don’t have men’s soccer championships, so New Mexico, Kentucky and South Carolina compete in Conference USA.

South Atlantic: Wingate, ranked No. 22 nationally in NCAA Division II, is the big favorite.

Southern Conference: Furman is the overwhelming favorite, with 10 of 11 starters returning from a team that reached the NCAA’s second round in 2014.

Sun Belt: Defending champion Hartwick is picked to repeat, with Appalachian State picked fourth by coaches in a six-team race.

Games to watch

Charlotte at Virginia, Saturday: The 49ers test the ACC favorite and nation’s No. 2 team.

Winthrop at Furman, Sept. 6: Behind Clemson, these might be the Palmetto State’s No. 2 and 3 teams.

Furman at Clemson, Sept. 15: The Paladins take a crack at the 11th-ranked Tigers.

Davidson at Stanford, Sept. 20: The Wildcats meet the eight-ranked Cardinal in the second of two games in California.

Wingate at Limestone, Sept. 30: The Carolinas’ top two Division II teams meet in a rematch of a second-round NCAA tournament game last year (won 1-0 by Limestone).

UNC Wilmington at North Carolina, Oct. 6: The Seahawks, a strong Colonial Athletic team, face the powerful Tar Heels.

Charlotte at New Mexico, Oct. 27: Conference USA’s top two teams collide.

North Carolina at Virginia, Oct. 30: It’s the regular-season finale for two teams that figure to battle for the ACC crown.

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