GORHAM, Maine -- The Plymouth State College men's soccer team, winners of six Little East Conference championships since 1989, has been picked by the conference's eight head coaches as the preseason favorite to repeat as champions in the upcoming 2001 season. William M. Moore, commissioner for the Little East Conference, announced the poll Thursday afternoon following a vote by the conference's eight head coaches.
Five of the conference's eight teams open their 2001 season with non-conference matches this weekend (Aug. 31-Sept. 2). Conference play begins the weekend of September 22.
The Panthers, 15-5-0 overall and 6-1-0 in conference play, picked up six first place votes, one second and one third to collect 61 of a possible 64 points. Second-year head coach Keith Byrnes has 13 players returning, including 2000 LEC Player of the Year, Magnus Eriksson, and first team All-LEC picks Antoine Moiboueyi and Garry Thomson.
Keene State College, 16-7-0 overall and 5-2-0 in the conference, finished second in the poll, edging out the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth by one point, 51-50. UMass Dartmouth, 16-6-1 overall and 5-1-1 in LEC play, picked up one first place vote and 50 points. Western Connecticut State University, 12-8-1 overall and 4-3-0 in the LEC, picked up the final first place vote and 43 points to round out the top four teams.
A torrid battle should take place for the final two spots in the LEC's six-team championship tournament according to the coaches poll. Only ten points separate the fifth through eighth place teams in the poll. Rhode Island College (10-9-1; 3-3-1) came in fifth with 25 points, followed by Eastern Connecticut State University (4-16-0; 2-5-0) with 23 points, the University of Massachusetts Boston (8-10-1; 1-6-0) with 20 points and the University of Southern Maine (4-14-1; 1-6-0) with 15 points. Giving these four teams added incentive was UMass Dartmouth's second place finish last season after being picked for seventh in the preseason poll.
At the end of the regular season, the top six teams will advance to the single-elimination championship tournament that starts October 30. The top two clubs receive a first round bye. The other four teams will play a pair of first round games. The semifinal round games will be played November 2, and the championship match will take place at 12 noon on November 4 at the site of the highest remaining seed. The tournament winner receives an automatic berth in the 2001 NCAA Division III national championship tournament.
2001 Little East Conference Men's Soccer Preseason Poll
Team (1st place votes) Points 1) Plymouth State (6) 61 2) Keene State 51 3) UMass Dartmouth (1) 50 4) Western Connecticut (1) 43 5) Rhode Island College 25 6) Eastern Connecticut 23 7) UMass Boston 20 8) Southern Maine 15