CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Seven-time America East champion Boston University is the coaches’ choice to become men’s soccer champions again in 2010. The Terriers received three first-place votes (coaches were not permitted to vote for their own team) for 44 points and narrowly edged out defending champion Stony Brook University, which also garnered three first-place tallies and finished with 43 points.

UMBC, a finalist last season, came in third with 37 points and earned one first-place tally. University of New Hampshire, the 2009 regular-season champions, also got one first-place vote and 29 points, and was followed by Binghamton University (25 points), University of Hartford (20), University of Vermont (14) and University at Albany (10).

The 2010 campaign kicks off Sept. 1 with five America East squads in action, including Vermont, which will host No. 13 Stanford and Hartford, which will visit No. 12 Boston College. League play commences Oct. 3 and is highlighted by a matchup of Boston U. and UMBC in Baltimore on Oct. 15, which will be televised nationally on Fox Soccer Channel. A rematch of last year’s conference title game will take place between Stony Brook and UMBC in Long Island on Oct. 31.

The top six teams in America East, which had two teams (Boston U., No. 14; UMBC, No. 18) ranked simultaneously in the NSCAA Coaches’ Poll for the first time last year, 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 nine years.
                                                      
Boston U. (9-7-2 overall in 2009, 3-4-0 America East) welcomes back 14 letterwinners and eight starters from last year’s squad, including first-team All-America East honorees Michael Bustamante (Chelsea, Mass./Chelsea) and Aaron O’Neal (Virginia Beach, Va./Kellam). Bustamante, a junior midfielder, led the league and ranked among national leaders with 10 assists, while O’Neal, a senior forward, scored 11 goals, good for third in the conference. The Terriers, who ranked second in America  East last season averaging 1.61 goals per contest, open their 2010 season against UMass on  Sept. 1. Boston U. will also face three ranked opponents in No. 17 St. John’s (Sept. 12), No. 12 Boston College (Sept. 17) and No. 10 Harvard (Sept. 26).

Stony Brook (6-10-4, 4-2-1), which went 5-0-2 down the stretch last season to capture its second America East title, returns 14 players who started at least once in 2009. That group includes sophomore midfielder Leonardo Fernandes (North Babylon, N.Y./North Babylon), the 2009 America East Rookie of the Year and a second-team all league selection, and sophomore forward Berian Gobeil (Montreal, Quebec/Champlain College-Saint Lambert), also a second-team choice. The tandem combined for 12 goals as freshmen, more than half of the Seawolves’ output. SBU opens its season Sept. 1 at Hofstra and will face three NCAA teams, including No. 16 South Florida (Sept. 7), Dartmouth (Sept. 12) and No. 10 Harvard (Sept. 24).


 


UMBC (14-6-0, 3-4-0) won its first nine games a year ago and reached the America East title game for the first time. The Retrievers lost just two players from that team and return all 11 starters, including major award winners Levi Houapeu (Germantown, Md./Watkins Mill), the Midfielder of the Year, and Andrew Bulls (Baltimore, Md./McDonogh), the Striker of the Year. The pair ranked first and second nationally in scoring last season combining for 30 goals and 24 assists. The Retrievers  start their 2010 campaign Sept. 2 against VMI and also face No. 16 Penn State on Oct. 20.

New Hampshire (9-7-2, 6-0-1) captured its first regular-season title since 1994 last year on the heels of a defense that allowed a league-low 0.94 goals per game. The Wildcats welcome back nine starters, including the 2009 America East Goalkeeper of the Year Colin O’Donnell (Springfield, Mass./Minnechaug Regional), who led the league in goals-against average (0.76), save percentage (.831) and shutouts (5). UNH begins its campaign by hosting UW-Milwaukee, Central Connecticut and Vermont at the 21st UNH Nike Fall Soccer Classic Sept. 4-6.

Binghamton (9-9-1, 4-3-0) had its string of six straight America East title game appearances snapped last season. The Bearcats return seven starters, including a trio of second-team all-conference performers in senior Scott Zobre (Poughkeepsie, N.Y./Poughkeepsie), junior Ryan Walter (Snyder, N.Y./Nichols) and sophomore Jake Keegan (Stormville, N.Y./John Jay), who combined for 10 goals and nine assists last season. Binghamton starts its season with four straight ranked opponents: UNC Wilmington, Monmouth, Ohio State and Penn State.

Hartford (8-7-3, 4-2-1) closed out last season 5-2-2 before falling to Stony Brook via a shootout in the America East semifinals. The Hawks return 12 letterwinners and six starters from last year’s team, including sophomore James Stamopoulos (Mississauga, Ontario/Port Credit Secondary), an all-rookie selection last year, and junior Patrick Boucher (Cromwell, Conn./Cromwell), the team’s top returning scorer (3 goals, 3 assists). In addition to facing Boston College, Hartford will take on No. 17 St. John’s (Sept. 17).

Vermont (1-10-5, 1-4-2), the 2007 champion, failed to reach the conference tournament for the first time since 2004 last season. The Catamounts will rely on the senior leadership of Kyle Luetkehans (LaGrange, Ill./Lyons Township), who was just one of three Cats’ to start all 16 games a year ago.
After opening with the Cardinal, UVM will face two more NCAA teams later in the regular season: Brown on Sept. 25 and Dartmouth on Oct. 6.

Albany (0-13-3, 0-6-1) returns 15 letterwinners and seven starters from last year’s team, including senior Ian Peach (South Hempstead, N.Y./South Side), who’s made 43 career starts, and sophomore goalkeeper Adrian Foncette (Arima, Trinidad/Fatima), who ranked third among league leaders with a .789 save percentage. The Great Danes open their campaign on Sept. 1 against Fairfield.

2010 Preseason Poll
Rank Team (1st-place votes) Total

1.      Boston U. (3)                     44
2.      Stony Brook (3)                 43
3.      UMBC (1)                          37
4.      New Hampshire (1)            29
5.      Binghamton                       25
6.      Hartford                            22
7.      Vermont                           14
8.      Albany                              10