After five successful years at the helm for the Seward County Saints, there arenít many firsts that pop up on Head Coach Bryan Zollinger radar as far as accomplishments anymore. However, Thursday, as the NJCAA released its Preseason Top 25 Poll, Zollinger did notch a first. Despite three Jayhawk West Championships and two Region VI titles, the Saints had never been ranked in the preseason poll under Zollinger, until Thursday when Seward checked in at #9 in the opening rankings.

Seward draws the nod at #9 after finishing third at the NJCAA National Tournament a season ago during a 31-7 season that also saw them win the Jayhawk West and Region VI Championship en route to their push in Hutchinson. The Saints return just three players from last yearís squad, but two starters in point guard Kaheem Ransom and big man Edson Avila, as well as Briston White who played a key role off the bench for Seward. They also add three sophomore transfers that include Division I players in Jabari Peters and Leslee Smith. The Saints roster currently sits at 17, but will be trimmed to at least 14 before their opener on November 2nd against Fort Carson in the Greenhouse.
It is the first time since 2005 that the Saints have opened a season in the top 25, a stretch which has seen Jayhawk West rivals such as Hutchinson open the year ranked six different times in the top 25 despite failing to win a Region Championship in that span. Defending National Champions South Plains opens the year as #1 and rightfully so after an undefeated 36-0 campaign in 2011-2012. The team that ended the Saints dream run before finishing runners-up, Northwest Florida State was picked 2nd and were followed by Howard, Chipola, and Indian Hills at #3, #4, and #5. Two other Region VI teams were recognized in the poll, including Hutchinson who comes in at #13 after a 25 win season and Coffeyville who is ranked #19 following a 28-4 year last season.