Albany Unanimously Chosen #AEFH Preseason Favorite
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Winner of three of the last six America East field hockey titles, Albany has been unanimously picked as the favorite in the 2014 preseason coaches’ poll, the conference office announced Thursday afternoon. The voting was conducted by the conference’s six head coaches, who were not permitted to vote for their own teams.
The Great Danes received all five possible first-place votes and the maximum 25 points. New Hampshire, the 2013 champion and winner of four-consecutive regular-season crowns, came in second with 20 points, followed closely by Maine, which earned 18 points and the remaining first-place tally. Fairfield was fourth (13 points), followed by UMass Lowell (8) and Vermont (6) to round out the six-team poll. Here the full poll:
2014 Preseason Poll (1st-place votes)
1. Albany (5), 25 pts.
2. New Hampshire, 20
3. Maine (1), 18
4. Fairfield, 13
5. UMass Lowell, 8
6. Vermont, 6
The 2013 regular season kicks off on Friday, Aug. 29 with five America East squads in action. Conference play begins on Friday, Oct. 3 while the four-team America East Championship will take place on Nov. 6 and 8 at the highest remaining seed. The conference champion receive an automatic bid to the NCAA Field Hockey Championship, where America East teams 10 all-time wins.
Preview each of the teams below --
1. Albany Great Danes
2013 record: 16-5, 4-1 (2nd), AE Runner Up
- Albany peaked at #10 in the NFHCA national poll last year and reached the America East title game for the sixth time in the last seven years.
- The Great Danes return all but three players from last year's squad, including nine starters.
- Sophomore Paula Heuser is back after leading the league in scoring as a freshman with 45 goals and 17 assists. She became the first player to earn both America East Midfielder and Rookie of the Year honors in the same season and was also an All-America selection.
- The Great Danes ranked second in the nation last year averaging 4.1 goals per game.
- Head coach Phil Sykes' team opens its season at home against Hofstra on Aug. 30 and will play four teams that reached the NCAA tournament last year (New Hampshire, Princeton, Syracuse, Virginia).
2. New Hampshire
2013 record: 15-7, 5-0, AE Champion, NCAA 1st Round
- New Hampshire captured its second America East title in three years and finished the season ranked 19th nationally in 2013.
- Fourteen players are back from last year's squad, including leading scorer and first-team All-America East standout Meg Flatley (16 G, 6 A).
- Senior Carlie Tarbell will be back in the cage for UNH. She is the reigning America East Goalkeeper of the Year.
- Robin Balducci's team opens its season vs. Indiana on Aug. 29 and will face two teams that reached the NCAA tournament last year in 2014, including defending national champion UConn on Sept. 12.
3. Maine Black Bears
2013 record: 11-9, 3-2 (3rd), AE Semifinals
- Maine reached
- The Black Bears return the team's leading scorer in Eve L'Abbe, who tallied five goals and added three assists last year.
- The team will have to replace 2013 America East Defender of the Year, Maggie Malone, who helped the team hold opponents to just 0.89 goals per game, good for second in the conference.
- Head coach Scott Atherley enters his 15th season with the Black Bears and is the all-time winningest coach in school history.
4. Fairfield Stags
2013 record: 11-7, 2-3 (4th), AE Semifinals
- Fairfield reached the America East Championship for the second-straight year in 2013 and its 11 wins were its most since 2001.
- Senior Felicitas Heinen leads 14 returnees for the Stags. Heinen was a first-team All-America East choice for the second-straight season last year.
- The Stags open up at California on Sept. 29 and will face CAA-champion Delaware on Sept. 28.
5. UMass Lowell River Hawks
2013 record: 2-16, 1-4 (5th)
- UMass Lowell is set for its second season at the Division I level in 2014.
- Sophomore Georgia Cowderoy, an America East All Rookie choice last season, leads the returnees after totaling 12 points in 2013.
- The River Hawks open their season with La Salle at home on Aug. 30.
6. Vermont Catamounts
2013 record: 0-19, 0-5 (6th)
- Vermont begins its first season under head coach Kate Pfeifer, who spent the last seven seasons as the associate head coach at Northeastern.
- The Catamounts' roster will feature nine freshman this season.
- UVM hosts Providence in its season opener on Aug. 29, one of 12 home games it'll have this season.