CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — The University at Albany women’s lacrosse program tops the 2012 America East Preseason Coaches’ Poll with 34 points and five of a possible six first-place votes. The Great Danes are coming off of their first-ever America East Championship and one of the most impressive seasons in conference history.
The next four teams in the poll are separated by just four points with Boston University entering the 2012 season picked to finish second and garnering 25 points. University of New Hampshire, who earned one first-place vote, and new-look Stony Brook University are third in the poll with 24 points apiece. UMBC checks into the preseason poll in fifth-place with 21 points and the final top-place vote. University of Vermont (13 points) and Binghamton University (6) round out the seven-team poll.
The top four teams in the conference will advance to the America East Championship with the winner of the tournament receiving an automatic bid to the NCAA Women’s Lacrosse Championship. The league tournament, held May 3 and 5, will be hosted by the top seed.
Albany (18-1, 6-0 AE) made program history in 2010 with its first-ever America East Regular-Season Championship, but bowed out early in the America East semifinals. In 2011, the Great Danes used the previous year’s early exit as motivation for an even more spectacular season under first-year head coach John Battaglino. Albany swept the America East Regular-Season and Tournament championships and was the final unbeaten team in the country at 18-0 before running into eventual National Champion Northwestern in the NCAA Quarterfinals. The Great Danes lose some big pieces from that team, but return plenty of talent which could translate to another championship run. Sophomore forward Ariana Parker is the team’s top leading scorer after a 44-goal freshman campaign. Senior midfielder Mel Rorie, who missed all but two games last season with injury, is back. Rorie can contribute all over the field after finishing 2010 with 30 goals, 28 ground balls, 23 draw controls and 20 caused turnovers. The return of sophomore Anna Berman and senior Brett Yenger creates stability in net for the Great Danes.
A young Boston U. (8-9, 4-2 AE) team fell short of the program’s seventh-straight America East Championship last year, but brings back a lot of experience now for the 2012 season. Junior attacker Danielle Etrasco earned America East Co-Player of the Year honors as a sophomore after finding the back of the net 57 times and finishing with 65 points. Etrasco, recently named to the US National Senior Team, also led the team with 41 draw controls. The Terriers’ next two goal-scorers from last year in seniors Molly Swain (29g, 6a) and Hannah Frey (28g, 4a) will also provide Boston U. with lots of fire power, while classmate Catie Tilton will likely set up the attackers after registering 23 assists last year.
New Hampshire (8-9, 3-3 AE) has advanced to 14 straight America East Championships and hopes to extend that run this year. The Wildcats return first-team all-conference selection Ilana Cohen and Kate Keagins, both seniors, in the midfield as their top returning point-getters. Cohen finished third on the team a year ago with 24 goals and added 13 assists for 37 points. Keagins topped the team in points (39 -- 23 g, 16a), ground balls (37) and caused turnovers (32). Second-team all-conference junior goalkeeper Kathleen O’Keefe will mind the UNH net after making 10 starts in 2011.
Stony Brook (4-11, 1-5 AE) is under the direction of new head coach Joe Spallina who led Adelphi to three straight Division II National Championships. Spallina brings in 14 newcomers, including the Division II Attacker of the Year Claire Petersen and Division II Midfielder of the Year Demmianne Cook, both Adelphi transfers, and Florida transfer junior midfielder Janine Hillier. Sophomore attacker Alyssa Cardillo led the Seawolves with 31 points last season on 11 goals and 20 assists, while senior attacker Abby Ford put up 29 points last season, dishing out 20 assists. Stony Brook graduated first-team all-conference goalkeeper Mickey Cahill last spring, but the 2011 Division II National Goalkeeper of the Year Frankie Caridi, a sophomore, is another one of Spallina’s Adelphi transfers who he is counting on to make an impact at the Division I level.
UMBC (11-7, 4-2 AE) is coming off back-to-back America East Championship title game appearances under head coach Kelly Berger. The Retrievers lost a 50-point starter to graduation, but does return another one in senior midfielder Alicia Krause. Krause, a first-team all-conference pick, scored 35 points and dished out 15 assists last season while leading the team with 29 ground balls, 32 draw controls and 20 caused turnovers. Senior attacker Emily Coady may be looked to as a more consistent scoring option after finishing the 2011 season with 21 goals and 10 assists. Junior defender Jamie Fahey, another first-team all-conference player, leads the defensive unit.
The 2011 America East Rookie of the Year Sydney Mas led Vermont (8-9, 2-4 AE) and the conference with 3.44 goals per game. She set an all-time conference rookie scoring record with 55 goals and also collected 22 ground balls and 54 draw controls to earn first-team all-conference recognition in her first year. A pair of seniors in Samantha Stern (24 goals) and Allison Pfohl (19 goals) complement the offense, while two-time all-conference senior defender Caitie Izzo and senior goalkeeper Laura Barber both provide veteran leadership on the defensive end of the field.
Senior Lis Zuern, a 50-point scorer last year, is back for Binghamton (4-13, 1-5 AE) in 2012. Zuern notched 35 goals and set up 15 others to lead the Bearcats in points a year ago, however Binghamton’s next returning scorer put up just 14 points, so the Bearcats will have to find another offensive threat. On defense, senior Lauren Lukefahr is a second-team all-conference honoree who finished third on the team in ground balls (25), and second in draw controls (30) and caused turnovers (18).
2012 Preseason Poll
Rank Team (1st-place votes) Total
1. Albany (5) 34
2. Boston U. 25
3t. New Hampshire (1) 24
3t. Stony Brook 24
5. UMBC (1) 21
6. Vermont 13
7. Binghamton 6