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BURNSVILLE, Minn. – The Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference has announced its 2019 preseason coaches’ poll, tabbing Winona State University to finish fourth overall and second in the South Division. Additionally, senior linebacker Nick Pridgeon was voted as the NSIC South Preseason Defensive Player of the Year.

The defending NSIC Champion Minnesota State Mavericks have been selected to finish first overall (224 points) and in the South Division (49 points). Minnesota Duluth has been tabbed to finish atop the NSIC North and second overall (208). Winona State narrowly edged Sioux Falls in the South Division preseason voting, but the USF Cougars were picked by a slight margin to finish third overall. The Warriors tallied 182 total points and 39 in the South while USF garnered 187 total points (37 South).

The Warriors are coming off an 8-3 campaign in 2018 in which they narrowly missed a postseason berth. Winona State has won at least eight games in each of the last three seasons, including a 10-2 record in 2017 when the Warriors hosted an NCAA Playoff game.

Two of the Warriors’ three losses a year ago came to AFCA Top-5 opponents who each reached the NCAA Playoffs (Mankato & Duluth). Winona State was bitten hard by the injury bug in 2018, losing impact players such as Jake Balliu, Michael Gomez and Nick Pridgeon. The trio of the former All-NSIC performers is expected back this season.

Offensively, Owen Burke will be under center once again for his second season as the starting quarterback. The junior ranked fourth in the NSIC in touchdowns (22) and fifth in passing yards (2448) a year ago, and will look to improve upon those numbers with Balliu’s versatile skill set back at his disposal. The duo of Javian Roebuck and Sam Santiago-Lloyd will carry a bulk of the load in the ground game after combining for 1,161 yards and seven touchdowns last year.

With the return of Gomez on the defensive line and Pridgeon to the linebacker group, the Warrior defense should once again be one of the best units in not only the conference but in the country. One of the best in Division II in 2017, Winona State ranked ninth in the country in total takeaways (28) last season. Safety Kenneth Sanders had a breakout freshman season and will be flanked at the corners by All-American Isaiah Hall and Cole Monckton.

Winona State will look to come out of the gate strong with a loaded schedule in the opening month when the 2019 campaign officially kicks off at home on Saturday, September 7 vs. Wayne State. Following a pivotal road game at Sioux Falls the following week, the Warriors return to Altra Federal Credit Union Stadium on Thursday, September 19 vs. Upper Iowa. WSU then travels to Mankato on Saturday, September 28.

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