Eastern Connecticut Predicted As Little East Men's Soccer Favorite
NORTH DARTMOUTH, Mass. -For the first time in program history, Eastern Connecticut State University has been predicted to capture the Little East Conference men's soccer championship outright after each of the eight head coaches casted a vote in the annual preseason poll. In 2008, the Warriors shared the top preseason billing with Keene State College.
Eastern Connecticut and Rhode Island College each finished in
the top three on all eight ballots, but the Warriors earned three
first-place votes and 57 total points to edge the Anchormen. Rhode
Island College was just two points off the pace after receiving a
pair of first-place tallies. The top teams in the 21st annual
preseason survey will square off in Willimantic, Conn. on Oct. 18
at 1 p.m.
Under the direction of Head Coach Greg DeVito, Eastern Connecticut earned the program's first national ranking in the National Soccer Coaches' Association of America (NSCAA) Division III poll, debuting at No. 13 on Oct. 21, 2008. The Warriors also posted their second consecutive campaign with at least 11 victories, matching the program's second highest single-season win total with a 15-4-3 overall record. Eastern Connecticut qualified for its second straight postseason tournament, advancing to the finals of the 2008 Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) Division III New England Championship.
DeVito will welcome back 11 players, including four all-conference honorees, from the 2008 edition. Senior forward Maxim Fantl (West Hartford, Conn.), the 2008 Little East Offensive Player of the Year and NSCAA All-New England first-team pick, and junior midfielder Nicholas Boretti (Marshfield, Mass.) are the Warriors' top returning scorers. Fantl led the conference circuit in goals (16) and points (40), while Boretti used a balanced attack of seven markers and seven helpers for 21 points. Eastern Connecticut will open the 2009 slate at the Babson College Classic against MIT on Sept. 5 at 3:30 p.m.
In 2008, Head Coach John Mello guided the Anchormen to the program's first Little East Championship and automatic berth into the NCAA Division III Tournament field. Rhode Island College (12-6-5) closed strong down the stretch with a 10-2-4 mark, including a 5-1-1 record in Little East action. The Anchormen's 16 points in conference-play set a new program record. Mello's charges reached the second round of the national tournament after advancing past Babson on penalty kicks (3-1) before bowing out to national runner-up Stevens Institute of Technology.
Rhode Island College returns 17 student-athletes from last season, including senior midfielder Ryan Kelley (Hope, R.I.). The All-Little East, first-team selection shared the team lead in assists (4), while ranking third in points (10). The Anchormen travel to Coast Guard on Sept. 1 at 7 p.m. for their season opener.
The University of Southern Maine (40) and Plymouth State University (38) complete the top-half of the preseason survey. The Huskies established a new standard for single-season wins since joining the Little East Conference in 1989 with an overall record of 12-9-1, surpassing the previous record held by the 2004 squad (11-5-3). Mike Keller, the 2008 Little East Coach of the Year, led Southern Maine to the program's first regular-season conference championship. The Huskies received an invitation to their third ECAC Championship Tournament in the past five years. Southern Maine will host University of New England at 4 p.m. on Sept. 1 to kick off the 2009 campaign.
Head Coach Rob Wright and the Panthers were just one match away from earning a trip to the NCAA Tournament last season, falling at Rhode Island College in the finals of the Little East Championship. Fourth-seeded Plymouth State (8-9-3) posted a pair of shutout victories, including a 3-0 upset against the top-seeded Huskies, to reach the conference championship match. Senior forward Semir Mehmedovic (Concord, N.H.) is the top returning offensive threat for the Panthers. Last fall, Mehmedovic led the conference in assists (10), while ranking second in points (36) and goals (13). Plymouth State will face Ithaca College at 2:30 p.m. on Sept. 5 at the Roger Williams Turfer Classic.
The top four teams in the final regular season standings advance to the 2009 Little East Men's Soccer Championship Tournament. The top-two teams will host semifinal round action on Wednesday, Nov. 4 with the winners advancing to the championship match on Saturday, Nov. 7. The 2009 Little East Champion will earn the conference's automatic qualifier into the NCAA Division III Tournament.
Completing the preseason poll in projected order of finish in the final conference standings are Keene State College (37), Western Connecticut State University (26), University of Massachusetts Dartmouth (23), and University of Massachusetts Boston (12).
The Little East Conference begins its 21st season sponsoring men's soccer in 2009. In 1989, Eastern Connecticut State University, University of Massachusetts Boston, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth (Southeastern Massachusetts University), Plymouth State University (College), Rhode Island College, and the University of Southern Maine each formed the Little East Conference. Western Connecticut State University joined the conference in 1993, while Keene State College completed the present eight-team membership in 1997.
2009 Little East Men's Soccer Coaches Preseason Poll
|Rank||Institution||First Place||Total Points|
|1||Eastern Connecticut State University||3||57|
|2||Rhode Island College||2||55|
|3||University of Southern Maine||1||40|
|4||Plymouth State University||1||38|
|5||Keene State College||37|
|6||Western Connecticut State University||1||26|
|7||University of Massachusetts Dartmouth||23|
|8||University of Massachusetts Boston||12|