GORHAM, Maine -- The defending champion Western Connecticut State University Colonials have been picked as the preseason favorite to repeat as Little East Conference women's soccer champions in the upcoming 2001 season. William M. Moore, commissioner of the Little East Conference, announced the results of the preseason poll Thursday afternoon, following a vote by the conference's eight head coaches.
Six of the eight teams in the conference open their 2001 season this weekend (August 31-September 2) with non-conference games. Little East play begins September 15.
The Colonials, under the direction of fifth-year head coach Joe Mingachos, were 17-4-1 overall and 5-1-1 in LEC play last season before winning the championship tournament. Western Connecticut collected five first place votes and 61 of a possible 64 points to top the coaches' poll. Mingachos has a solid nucleus returning from last year's squad, including sophomore goalkeeper Kristen Bartholomew, last season's Rookie of the Year, all-conference selections Heather Babington, Lisette Mercado and Liz Nogueira, and 1999 Rookie of the Year, Cherie Bailey, who missed much of the 2000 regular season, but was the LEC tournament MVP.
Keene State College, which shared the 2000 regular season crown with Western Connecticut last before losing the tournament championship game, 1-0 in overtime, to the Colonials, was picked as the top team on two ballots and earned 57 points to take second place. The Owls were 13-7-3 overall and 4-0-3 in conference play last season.
The University of Southern Maine Huskies, 12-8-0 overall and 5-2-0 in the LEC last season, were named the top team on one ballot and collected 46 points to come in third in the poll.
Plymouth State College, 10-8-2 overall and 4-2-1 in LEC play, rounds out the top four teams, edging out Eastern Connecticut State University, 8-9-1 overall and 3-4-0 in conference play, by two points, 37-35.
Rhode Island College (8-9-0; 3-4-0) with 24 points, the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth (5-9-3; 1-5-1) with 18 points, and the University of Massachusetts Boston (1-14-2; 0-7-0) with 10 points, complete the poll.
At the end of the regular season, the top six teams will advance to the single-elimination championship tournament that starts October 23. 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 October 26, and the championship match will take place at 12 noon on October 28 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 Women's Soccer Preseason Poll
Team (1st place votes) Points
1) Western Connecticut (5) 61
2) Keene State (2) 57
3) Southern Maine (1) 46
4) Plymouth State 37
5) Eastern Connecticut 35
6) Rhode Island College 24
7) UMass Dartmouth 18
8) UMass Boston 10