GORHAM, Maine -- The Western Connecticut State University Colonials, the defending Little East Conference volleyball champion, were the clear favorite to repeat as champions in the upcoming 2001 season, according to the preseason coaches poll. The poll was released Thursday afternoon by William M. Moore, commissioner of the Little East Conference, following voting by the circuit's eight head coaches.
The defending champions and the University of Massachusetts Boston open the 2001 season this weekend (August 31-September 1) with non-conference matches. The first conference matches will be played the weekend of September 14-15.
Western Connecticut was picked as the top team on seven of the eight ballots, and collected 63 out of a possible 64 points to be the near-consensus pick to defend its crown. Veteran head coach Richard Myers has a strong nucleus returning from last year's team that finished 22-13 overall and was unbeaten in conference play. The Colonials are expected to be led by last season's LEC Player of the Year, setter Jaymie Rosario, and all-conference selection Debra Senior. Western Connecticut also regains the services of Cynthia Socoloskie, an all-conference pick in 1999 who missed the entire 2000 season.
Eastern Connecticut State University, 17-15 overall and 5-2 LEC play, picked up the remaining first place vote and 52 points to finish second in the poll. Plymouth State College, 22-12 overall and 5-2 in conference play, was just one point behind Eastern Connecticut.
The University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, 25-10 overall and 5-2 in the LEC, rounded out the top four with 41 points.
Another close race had Keene State College, 12-25 overall and 2-5 in the LEC, edging out Rhode Island College, 13-11 overall and 3-4 in the conference, by one point, 28-27, for the fifth spot.
The University of Southern Maine (12-21, 1-6) with 18 points and the UMass Boston (11-13; 1-6) with 10 points round out the poll.
At the end of the regular season, the top six teams will advance to the single-elimination championship tournament that starts October 31. The top two clubs receive a first round bye. The other four teams will play a pair of first round matches. The semifinal round matches will be played November 3, and the championship match will take place on November 4. The semifinals and championship match will be held at the site of the regular season champion. The tournament winner receives an automatic berth in the 2001 NCAA Division III national championship tournament.
2001 Little East Conference Volleyball Preseason Poll
Team (1st place votes) Points
1) Western Connecticut (7) 63
2) Eastern Connecticut (1) 52
3) Plymouth State 51
4) UMass Dartmouth 41
5) Keene State 28
6) Rhode Island College 27
7) Southern Maine 16
8) UMass Boston 10