CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — America East men’s soccer champion two of the last three years, Stony Brook University is favored to finish the regular season atop the league standings as the Seawolves were tabbed the 2012 preseason favorite on Wednesday afternoon. Stony Brook received six of seven possible first-place votes from the league’s head coaches who were not permitted to vote for their own team, en route to 48 points. Boston University, last year’s regular-season champion, was selected second after garnering 43 points and the other two first-place votes.
University of Hartford, last year’s runner up, came in third with 32 points, followed by UMBC, just one point behind in fourth with 31 points, and University of Vermont in fifth with 22 points. University at Albany and Binghamton University tied for sixth place (17 points) while University of New Hampshire rounded out the eight-team poll (14).
The 2012 campaign kicks off next week with all eight teams opening on either Aug. 24 or 25. Six teams will qualify for the 2012 America East Championship, which begins with quarterfinal action on Saturday, Nov. 3 and continues with the semifinal round on Wednesday, Nov. 7. The winner of the tournament, which will be decided on Nov. 10 or 11, receives an automatic bid to the NCAA Men’s Soccer Championship, where the league champion is unbeaten in the last two years (1-0-2) and has advanced to the second round in eight of the last 11 seasons.
Stony Brook (10-6-4 overall, 4-2-1 America East in 2011) is poised to contend for its third America East title in four years as the Seawolves return 13 letterwinners and seven starters from last year’s title-winning squad. First-team all-conference selections Berian Gobeil-Cruz and Leonardo Fernandes combined for 16 goals a year ago and will again carry an offense that paced America East averaging 1.55 scores per game. Fernandes, the two-time Midfielder of the Year, was named to the MAC Hermann Trophy Preseason Watch List Monday. Stony Brook starts its title defense at Fairleigh Dickinson on Aug. 24.
Boston U. (9-9-0, 5-2-0) has won the league’s regular-season crown in three of the last four years, including last season. The Terriers bring back 14 letterwiners and eight starters from that squad, including America East Defender of the Year Kelvin Madzongwe, who helped Boston U. post a league-best 0.99 team GAA. Also back for the Terriers is Michael Bustamante, a three-time first-team all-league midfielder who missed all of last season due to injury. Boston U., which is ineligible for the America East Championship, will face eight NCAA teams from a year ago in 2012 and begins play at St. John’s on Aug. 24.
Hartford (8-9-4, 3-2-2) closed its 2011 campaign by winning five of its last six games and reached the league title game for the first time since 1999. Thirteen players that contributed to that success are back for this season, led by first-team All-America East striker David Bernhardsson, who paced the conference in points per game (1.38) last year. The Hawks, who averaged 1.38 goals per game last year, kick off their season at West Virginia on Aug. 25.
UMBC (7-8-3, 4-3-0) failed to reach the America East title game for the first time since 2008 last year and will look to first-team all-league forward Pete Caringi III to lead it back in 2012. Caringi led his team and was tied for ninth among league leaders with 13 points (4G, 5A) last season. The Retrievers commence their season on Aug. 25 at home against Radford.
Vermont (9-7-1, 4-2-1) finished tied for second in the conference standings last season, its best finish since 2007. D.J. Edler is the Catamounts’ top returning scorer (5 G, 1 A) while Sean Sweeney will lead a defense that tied for the league lead allowing just 1.00 goals per game in 2011. UVM opens its season Aug. 25 at its new home, Virtue Field, against URI.
Albany (6-10-3, 1-3-3) reached the semifinals of the America East Championship for the first time since 2008 last year. The Great Danes bring back eight starters from that team, including leading scorer Quintel Gates, who tallied 18 points last season. Albany kicks off it campaign at Syracuse on Aug. 24.
Binghamton (5-10-2, 1-5-1) missed out on the conference tournament for just the second time in its 10 years as a league member. A young team last year, the Bearcats welcome back 16 letterwinners, including leading scorer Jake Keegan (7 G, 4 A). The Bearcats start play at Colgate on Aug. 24.
New Hampshire (7-9-2, 1-4-2), which failed to qualify for the America East Championship last year, welcomes back 20 players from that team, including all-rookie selection Travis Worra, who ranked fourth among league leaders in GAA as a freshman (1.13). UNH opens up at Oakland on Aug. 24.
For more information on America East men’s soccer, including schedules, stats and record book log on to www.AmericaEast.com.
ABOUT THE AMERICA EAST CONFERENCE: Into its fourth decade of operation, America East has evolved into one of the most comprehensive NCAA Division I conferences with a commitment to broad-based, competitive athletics programs, complementing the academic integrity and missions of the member institutions. Progressive in its approach to its more than 3,400 student-athletes, America East recognizes champions in each of its 20 sports and also conducts the nation’s most comprehensive academic recognition program for student-athletes. With a geographic footprint covering the Mid-Atlantic to Northeast regions of the United States, America East strives to develop champions in academics, athletics and leadership at its nine member institutions: University at Albany, Binghamton University, Boston University, University of Hartford, University of Maine, UMBC, University of New Hampshire, Stony Brook University and University of Vermont.
2012 Preseason Poll
Rank Team (1st-place votes) Points
1. Stony Brook (6) 48
2. Boston U. (2) 43
3. Hartford 32
4. UMBC 31
5. Vermont 22
T-6. Albany 17
8. New Hampshire 14