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Eastern Edges Keene State As Women's Soccer Favorite

Eastern Edges Keene State As Women's Soccer Favorite

NORTH DARTMOUTH, Mass. – Eastern Connecticut State University has been predicted to capture the 2012 Little East women's soccer regular-season championship for the third consecutive campaign, edging Keene State College by just a single point in a vote by the eight conference coaches. The Warriors earned five first place votes and 58 total points to sit atop the annual preseason coaches' poll.

The Owls are projected to finish second in the Little East women's soccer race after receiving one first place vote and 57 combined points. Western Connecticut State University produced the remaining two first place tallies and 52 points to enter the season ranked third.

Eastern Connecticut is making its fifth appearance as the preseason favorite after raising the Little East Women's Soccer Championship trophy for the fourth time in program history in 2011. Under the leadership of Chris D'Ambrosio , the Warriors reached double figures in wins for the 11th-straight season last fall, posting an overall record of 11-9-1. Eastern Connecticut registered a 6-1 mark in the conference circuit to earn the No. 2 seed in the Little East Women's Soccer Championship and a home match in the semifinal round. The Warriors secured their seventh appearance in the conference final with a 1-0 victory over intra-state rival Western Connecticut. Eastern Connecticut edged Keene State on penalty kicks (3-2) after 110 minutes of scoreless soccer to book the program fifth's berth in the NCAA Division III Championship. The Warriors fell at nationally-ranked John Hopkins in the opening round of the national championship.

D'Ambrosio will welcome back eight starters and a total of 15 student-athletes from the 2011 squad. Last season, Eastern Connecticut featured the second-ranked offense attack in the conference, averaging 2.29 goals per game. The Warriors return three 2011 All-Little East selections to the pitch, including the Offensive Player of the Year in senior striker Daniela Marchitto (Orange, Conn.). In 21 matches, Marchitto served as the offensive catalyst for Eastern Connecticut when she produced 15 goals and seven assists for 37 points. The Warriors open their 2012 slate at 7 p.m. on Aug. 31, when Eastern Connecticut hosts Fitchburg State University in the Warrior Classic.

Keene State College is ranked second in the annual preseason coaches' survey for the fifth time in program history. Under the watchful eye of Denise Lyons, the Owls posted an overall record of 15-7-3 in 2011, marking the 15th consecutive year since joining Division III Keene State has earned at least 12 victories in a single season. The Owls registered a 7-0 mark within the conference circuit to capture the program's seventh Little East regular-season title and earn the right to host the conference championship. Keene State edged fourth-seeded UMass Boston on penalty kicks in the semifinal round, but the Owls were outlasted in the finals by Eastern Connecticut. Keene State advanced to the 2011 Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) Division III New England Championship, where they were defeated in a shootout at Worcester State.

In 2012, Lyons will return an experienced group of veterans from the 2011 team that includes nine starters and 16 total players. The Owls are expected to feature a well-balanced offensive attack as they welcome five of their top-six scorers back into the fold. Junior forward Jessica Berthiaume (Worcester, Mass.) paced Keene State in scoring last season with nine goals and eight helpers for 26 points, while senior midfielder Brittany Croteau (Swanzey, N.H.) found the back of the net seven times for 14 points. The Owls will open their 2012 schedule at 1:30 p.m. on Sept. 1, when Keene State squares off against Lyndon State in Plattsburg, N.Y.

Completing the annual preseason coaches' survey in projected order of finish in the regular-season standings are University of Massachusetts Boston (35), University of Massachusetts Dartmouth (29), Plymouth State University (24), University of Southern Maine (21), and Rhode Island College (12).

The top-six teams in the final regular-season standings advance to the 2012 Little East Women's Soccer Championship with the top-two teams earning a first-round bye and home field advantage in the semifinal round. The Little East championship match will be held on Saturday, Nov. 3 at the highest remaining seed. The conference champion will earn the automatic qualifier into the 2012 NCAA Division III Championship.

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.

2012 Little East Women's Soccer Preseason Coaches' Poll
Rank Institution First Place Total Points
1 Eastern Connecticut State University 5 58
2 Keene State College 1 57
3 Western Connecticut State University 2 52
4 University of Massachusetts Boston   35
5 University of Massachusetts Dartmouth   29
6 Plymouth State University   24
7 University of Southern Maine   21
8 Rhode Island College   12