Boston U. Edges Reigning Champion UMBC As Men's Soccer Favorite
University of New Hampshire, runner-up last season, came in third with 33 points, just one point ahead of Stony Brook University (32 points). Binghamton University (28), University of Vermont (19), University of Hartford (15) and University at Albany rounded out the eight-team poll.
The 2011 campaign kicks off in late August with all eight teams opening on either Aug. 26 or 27. The top six teams in the America East standings will advance to the America East Championship, which begins with quarterfinal action on Saturday, Nov. 5 and continues with the semifinal round on Wednesday, Nov. 9. The winner of the tournament, which will be decided on Nov. 12 or 13, receives an automatic bid to the NCAA Men’s Soccer Championship, where the league champion has advanced to the second round in eight of the last 10 years, including UMBC last season.
Boston U. (11-5-1 overall, 6-1-0 America East) welcomes back 13 letterwinners and eight starters from last year’s squad, which led the conference in goal differential (plus-17). Five All-America East honorees return for the Terriers, including senior Ben Berube, who was tied for second among league leaders with eight goals a year ago. Boston U.’s back line, which allowed just 15 goals in 17 games last year, should be strong again in 2011 as reigning America East Defender of the Year Colin Henry and last year’s Rookie of the Year, Kelvin Madzongwe, both return. The Terriers, who will face six squads that reached the NCAA Tournament last season, open at Holy Cross on Aug. 26.
UMBC (12-4-4, 4-1-2) is coming off one of its best seasons in program history after winning its first ever America East title and winning an NCAA contest for the first time. The Retrievers may have lost two-time America East major award winner Levi Houapeu, but they return 15 players from last year’s team, including eight starters. Two-time first-team all-conference honoree Andrew Bulls, who set a conference record with 15 assists last season, will lead a UMBC offense that scored a league-best 36 goals last year. Senior goalkeeper Dan Louisignau, a second-team all-leaguer last year, ranked second in goals-against average (0.87) and will anchor UMBC’s back line. The Retrievers open their season against Mount St. Mary’s on Aug. 27.
New Hampshire (9-5-6, 2-3-2) appeared in its first conference title game since 1994 last season and returns 16 players from that team. The Wildcats lost two-time America East Goalkeeper of the Year Colin O’Donnell to graduation but return their entire starting back line, which helped the Wildcats rank second nationally in team GAA (0.49). The Wildcats will look to senior Brad Hilton, a second-team all-conference midfielder, and all-rookie choice Steve Palumbo, who combined for 16 points on six goals and four assists last year, to help improve an offense that scored just 14 goals in 20 games last season. UNH opens its season at home against Rhode Island on Aug. 26.
Stony Brook (10-7-3, 3-2-2), the 2009 league champion, begins its first season under head coach Ryan Anatol, one of three new head coaches in the conference. The Seawolves will bring back eight starters and 10 others from last year’s team, including their top three scorers, who combined for 19 goals last season. Junior Leonardo Fernandes (6 goals, 1 assist), last season’s America East Midfielder of the Year, leads that group along with second-team all-leaguer Raphael Abreu (7 g, 1 a), a junior forward. The Seawolves start their season Aug. 27 at Lehigh.
Binghamton (6-7-4, 3-2-2) is in search of its first America East tournament win in two years after a string of appearing in six straight America East title games from 2003-08. The Bearcats return seven starters, including two-time second-team all-conference performers Ryan Walter and junior Adam Whitehead, who combined for five goals and nine assists last season. Sophomore Chris Hayen will return for his second season in net after registering four shutouts in 14 starts as a freshman. The Bearcats’ season opener is Aug. 26 at Bucknell.
Vermont (7-8-4, 2-4-1) returned to the conference tournament last year after missing it for the first time since 2004 in ‘09. The Catamounts will rely on their defense again in 2011 after ranking third in the league with a team GAA of 1.09 last season. Junior goalkeeper David Ramada posted three shutouts in 11 games and posted a 0.94 GAA last year. Senior Nick O’Neill returns as the Catamounts’ leading scorer from last year with 15 points (6 g, 3 a). UVM starts play at Central Connecticut on Aug. 26.
Hartford (5-10-0, 2-5-0) failed to reach the conference tournament for the first time since 2006 last season but will look to return under first-year head coach Tom Poitras. Junior James Stamopolous, an all-rookie selection as a freshman, looks to build off a strong second half of last season in which he registered three goals. Senior Patrick Boucher is the team’s top returning scorer after tallying seven points last year. The Hawks begin 2011 at home against Fordham on Aug. 27.
Albany (5-10-1, 1-5-1) is aiming to get back to the America East Championship for the first time since 2008 under first-year head coach Trevor Gorman. The Great Danes roster will consist of 12 returnees and nine newcomers. Leading the veterans will be junior goalkeeper Adrian Foncette, who paced America East with 5.6 saves per game last year and sophomore Christoffer Nisser, an all-rookie choice a year ago. The Great Danes begin play on Aug. 27 against Hartwick.