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August 27, 2013

Little East Conference Preseason Field Hockey Poll released

UMass Dartmouth picked to repeat as champs; PSU third

            NORTH DARTMOUTH, Mass. – The Little East Conference field hockey coaches have selected the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth as the preseason favorite to repeat as conference champions.  In 2012, the Corsairs matched the program's record for single season victories (17) and earned a berth into the NCAA Division III Championship field.

            UMass Dartmouth received eight of the 12 first-place votes and a total of 139 points to earn the top ranking in the coaches' survey for the third time in the past four seasons.  Keene State College is the clear consensus choice as the second-ranked squad with a first place vote and 128 markers.  Plymouth State University was selected first on a pair of coaches' ballots to place third with 117 points, while Bridgewater State University earned the remaining first place vote and accumulated 109 markers. 

            Westfield State University (79) placed fifth in the preseason poll, followed by the University of Southern Maine (76) and Western Connecticut State University (62).  Salem State University (60) earned the final spot in the projected postseason field, seven points higher than Worcester State University (53).

            Under the direction of Nicole Castonguay-Maher, the Corsairs are making their fourth appearance atop the annual preseason coaches' survey.  Last fall, UMD tied the program single-season record for victories with an overall mark of 17-6, matching the wins standard set by the 2006 squad.  The Corsairs utilized a stifling defensive attack to become the first team in program history to post an undefeated record (11-0) in the conference circuit.  UMass Dartmouth led the Little East in goals against average (1.38) and shutouts (9).  The Corsairs continued to their defensive intensity in the postseason championship, limiting their opponents to two or fewer goals in three matches.  UMass Dartmouth raised the program's third Little East Championship trophy with a 1-0 shutout victory over third-seeded Keene State to earn the conference's automatic qualifier into the NCAA Division III tournament.

            The Corsairs will return a total of 14 players from last season, including three members of the 2012 All-Little East second team.  Senior goalkeeper Lauren O'Brien (Rochester, Mass.) will receive the starting nod between the pipes for the second straight season after splitting the workload as a freshman and sophomore.  Last season, O'Brien posted a 17-6 record with a league-leading nine shutouts.  She allowed 32 markers in 1,620 minutes and 40 seconds to sport a 1.38 goals against average, while stopping 112 shots for a .778 save percentage.  O'Brien and the rest of the 2013 Corsairs will make their debut at 6:30 p.m. on Sept 4, when UMass Dartmouth hosts No. 19 Trinity (Conn.).

            Keene State received seven second-place votes to finish second in the preseason poll for the fifth time in program history.  In 2012, Head Coach Amy Watson led the Owls to an overall record of 15-9 to mark the program's seventh consecutive campaign with at least 15 victories.  Keene State placed third in the conference circuit with a 9-2 mark.  The Owls upset second-seeded Bridgewater State, 4-3, in the semifinal round to advance to the Little East title match at UMass Dartmouth.  The Owls earned an invitation to the Eastern College Athletic Conference Division III New England tournament, where Keene State fell to intra-state rival and eventual champions, Plymouth State.

            Watson will welcome 15 student-athletes, including eight starters, back into the fold from the 2012 squad.  The Owls will return two of its top four scorers that produced at least 30 points last season.  Junior midfielder Marisa Lemoine (Berlin, N.H.) will look to build upon her sophomore season where she registered 31 points and earned All-Little East, third-team honors.  An All-Little East, first-team selection, senior midfielder Aimee Donaruma (Hampden, Mass.) led Keene State with 16 assists and ranked third in points (30).  The Owls will open their 2013 schedule at 1 p.m. on August 31, when Keene State will visit Western New England.

            The Little East will sponsor a round-robin conference schedule with each team meeting each other once in the regular-season.  The top-eight teams in the final regular-season standings advance to the 2013 Little East Field Hockey Championship with the four highest seeds earning home field advantage in the quarterfinal round on Tuesday, November 5.  The Little East championship match is scheduled for Saturday, November 9 at the highest remaining seed. The conference champion will earn the automatic qualifier into the 2014 NCAA Division III Championship.

            Completing the preseason coaches' poll in projected order of finish in the final regular-season standings are Fitchburg State University (46), Framingham State University (40), and Eastern Connecticut State University (22), respectively.

            Formed in 1986, the Little East serves as New England's premier athletic conference for public institutions in NCAA Division III.  Featuring 19 championship sports, the Little East sponsors quality competition in every season for our student athletes.  Our eight state colleges and universities dedicate themselves to an ongoing fulfillment of the Division III mission of passion, responsibility, sportsmanship, and citizenship. 

2013 Little East Field Hockey Preseason Coaches' Poll 

Rank Institution 1st Place Total Points
1 UMass Dartmouth 8 139
2 Keene State 1 128
3 Plymouth State 2 117
4 Bridgewater State 1 109
5 Westfield State   79
6 Southern Maine   76
7 Western Connecticut   62
8 Salem State   60
9 Worcester State   53
10 Fitchburg State   46
11 Framingham State   40
12 Eastern Connecticut   22

(Courtesy of the Little East Conference)

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