CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Boston University, the defending America East men’s soccer champion, has been unanimously selected to retain its title, according to a vote by the league’s head coaches. The Terriers received all seven possible first-place votes (coaches were not permitted to vote for their own team) for 49 points, while Binghamton University, which fell to Boston U. in the championship game a year ago, was second in the poll with 39 points.
University of Vermont, the 2007 champion, came in third with 34 points and was followed closely by University at Albany, which tallied 30 points and garnered one first-place vote. University of Hartford (25 points), University of New Hampshire (20), Stony Brook University (15) and UMBC (13) rounded out the eight-team poll.
The 2009 campaign kicks off Sept. 1 with all eight America East squads in action, while league play commences Oct. 3 and is highlighted by a rematch of last year’s America East Championship game between Boston U. and Binghamton on Oct. 16. The contest is the NSCAA National Game of the Week and will be televised nationally on Fox Soccer Channel.
The top six teams in America East, which earned its highest conference RPI ever (No. 6) last season, will advance to the America East Championship. The winner of the tournament receives an automatic bid to the NCAA Men’s Soccer Championship, where the league champion has advanced to the second round in seven of the last eight years.
Boston U. (12-6-3 overall in 2008, 6-1-1 America East) brings back all but one starter from last year’s squad, which captured its 11th conference title and defeated Fairleigh Dickinson in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Ranked 24th in the country, the Terriers will be led by sophomore Michael Bustamante, the 2008 Midfielder and Rookie of the Year who ranked third among league leaders with nine assists, and senior Shaun Taylor, a two-time all-conference choice who was tied for second with nine scores. Senior goalkeeper Hrafn Davidsson returns to a defense that allowed just 17 goals and posted 10 shutouts in 2008. Boston U. opens its season Sept. 1 at NCAA participant UMass and will also face No. 12 UConn (Sept. 6) and No. 5 St. John’s (Sept. 13).
Binghamton (12-6-3, 5-3-0), the 2006 league champion, appeared in its sixth straight America East Championship game last season. The Bearcats boast one of the best defenses in the conference, held together by senior goalkeeper Jason Stenta, who led America East in goals-against average (.055), save percentage (.893) and shutouts (11). All-rookie selection Andy Tiedt is the team’s top returning scorer after tallying two goals and three assists as a freshman. Binghamton starts its season Sept. 1 against Syracuse at Bearcat Sports Complex, which averaged a league-best 1,115 fans per game last year.
Vermont (9-4-7, 4-1-3) will rely on two-time all-league striker T.J. Gore, the lone returnee among the team’s top scorers last season, to add to his 10 career goals. Sophomore Drew Smalley, one of six returning starters, will lead a defense that allowed just 15 goals in 2008. The Catamounts begin their quest for their fifth league title against Siena at home on Sept. 1 and will travel to No. 16 Dartmouth on Sept. 30.
Albany (12-4-2, 5-1-2) is coming off a record-setting season after tying a school mark with 12 victories. The Great Danes, who averaged a league-best 2.17 goals per game last season, welcome back 2008 Striker of the Year Claudio Dantas, who was the conference’s leading scorer with 28 points on nine goals and 10 assists. Sophomore Adrian Foncette will fill the shoes of 2008 Goalkeeper of the Year Steward Ceus and will also rely on all-rookie honoree Konner McNamara to lead the backs. Albany opens its season against Northeastern on Sept. 1 and with face three straight NCAA participants (Colgate, Fairfield and Penn) in September.
Hartford (7-8-3, 3-4-1) participated in its third straight America East Championship a year ago and brings back nearly every player from that squad. First-team all-conference performers Carlos Villa, who led America East with 11 goals, and Ivan Guarin, who scored twice and added an assist from his midfield spot, will also welcome back 2007 All-America East striker Andreas Blamo, who missed all of last season due to injury. The Hawks open at Bryant on Sept. 1 and will face three NCAA participants in non-conference play: Boston College, UMass and Ohio State.
New Hampshire (7-7-4, 2-4-2) brings back six starters from last year’s squad, including 2006 Striker of the Year Chris Banks, who ranked seventh in America East with seven goals last season. The Wildcats open at Iona on Sept. 1 and face a challenging non-conference slate with five NCAA teams from 2008 (Colgate, Dartmouth, Fairfield, Harvard, UMass) on the schedule.
Stony Brook (3-12-4, 1-4-3), the 2005 conference champion, looks to return to the America East Championship for the first time since 2006. Oscar Leis and James Palumbo, who each scored twice last season, will look to improve on the Seawolves’ league-low 11 goals scored in 2008. Stony Brook opens with rival Hofstra on Sept. 1 and will face No. 5 St. John’s on Sept. 11.
UMBC (6-9-2, 1-6-1) began last season 5-2-2, but dropped seven of its last eight contests to fall out of postseason contention. All-rookie selection Andrew Bulls, who ranked among league leaders with 18 points and eight goals, will lead the Retrievers offensively. UMBC kicks off its campaign Sept. 1 against Virginia Tech and will welcome No. 18 Loyola to UMBC Soccer Stadium on Sept. 22.