CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — For the sixth consecutive year, Boston University has been chosen as the preseason favorite to win the America East Women’s Soccer Championship, as determined by a vote of the conference’s head coaches. The Terriers, the defending league champion, were a unanimous selection, receiving all eight possible first-place votes (coaches were not permitted to vote for their own team) for 64 points, while Stony Brook University was picked to finish as runners-up for the second straight year after receiving 57 points and one first-place vote.
University of Hartford was selected third (45 points), while University of New Hampshire followed closely in fourth (43). Binghamton University was picked fifth (33), one point ahead of University of Maine (32) and followed by University at Albany (21), University of Vermont (16) and UMBC (13).
The 2009 season kicks off Friday, Aug. 21 with Stony Brook hosting Iona at newly turfed La Valle Stadium, while UMBC faces No. 20 Rutgers in Piscataway, N.J. on Tuesday, Aug. 25. Boston U., who will appear on national television (Fox Soccer Channel) Sept. 20 against Harvard, opens with Rhode Island Thursday, Aug. 27, with the other six teams starting play that weekend. The conference slate opens on Sept. 24, while the Terriers and Seawolves will meet October 15 on Long Island. The top six 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 Soccer Championship.
Boston University (15-6-1 overall, 8-0-0 America East in 2008) returns eight starters from last year’s squad, including two-time America East Defender of the Year Casey Brown, one of seven returnees who combined to score 21 of the Terriers’ league-leading 27 goals in 2008. Boston U., which last season became the first America East squad to complete the conference schedule unbeaten and untied since 2000, will face three ranked opponents in September with games at No. 23 Boston College (Sept. 2), at No. 14 West Virginia (Sept. 6) and against No. 12 Penn State at the UConn Classic (Sept. 13). The Terriers will be seeking their seventh America East title and fifth straight NCAA appearance under five-time Coach of the Year Nancy Feldman.
Stony Brook (11-8, 6-2) appeared in the conference title game last year for the first time since 2002. The Seawolves bring back 19 contributors and eight starters from that squad, including Rookie of the Year Colleen McKenna and Goalkeeper of the Year Marisa Viola. McKenna led America East in both points (21) and goals (9) last season, while Viola paced the league with 7.5 saves per game and was second with an .854 save percentage. Stony Brook will face No. 20 Rutgers on Aug. 30 and MAAC champion Fairfield on Sept. 15.
Hartford (8-6-5, 4-3-1), which has won a conference-best 10 titles, its last coming in 2006, will be led by Breeanna Robinson, a second-team all-conference choice and the Hawks’ second-leading scorer from a year ago with 13 points and six goals. All-rookie selection Lauren Brodeur ranked second among goalkeepers in goals-against average (0.65) and save percentage (.854). Hartford starts its season on Aug. 28 at Wyoming and will face four NCAA participants in non-conference play: Army, Central Connecticut, Fairfield and Princeton.
New Hampshire (6-11-1, 5-3-0) looks for its first conference title after playing in the championship game two years ago. The Wildcats, who ranked second in America East with 1.33 goals per game in 2008, will miss the scoring output of two-time America East Striker of the Year Michelle Sheehan, but return six starters, including Shaunna Kaplan and Amy Avitabile, who combined for four goals and 12 assists last year. UNH will open its season August 30 at Rhode Island and will take on Harvard (Sept. 8) and Northeastern (Sept. 11), both NCAA teams a year ago.
Binghamton (3-11-3, 2-5-1) advanced to the conference semifinals for the fourth time in five years and returns 15 players, including eight starters, from that squad. Second-team all-conference striker Dani Raske ranked second among league leaders with 19 points and seven goals as a freshman. The Bearcats open their season at Delaware Aug. 28 and will face Big East foe Syracuse on Sept. 6.
Maine (6-6-7, 3-3-2) loses just three players from that squad, which competed in the America East Championship for the sixth straight year. Second-team all-conference defender Christina Di Ielsi will lead a backfield that allowed just 20 goals in 19 games last season, the third fewest in the league. The Black Bears kick off their season on Aug. 28 at Weber State.
Albany (3-17-0, 1-7-0) hopes to vie for its first conference tournament berth since joining the league in 2001. Leading scorers Ashley Tirabassi (6 goals, 3 assists in 2008) and Rebecca Lee (5 goals, 4 assists) will spearhead the attack for the Great Danes, who open on Aug. 28 at Sacramento State.
Vermont (4-13-1, 2-5-1), which is seeking its first America East Championship appearance since 2000, returns seven starters from 2008, including leading scorer Carson Laderoute (5 goals) and Liza Bradley (6.88 saves per game). The Catamounts host Montreal and Northeast Conference champion Central Connecticut at the TD Bank Classic starting Aug. 28.
UMBC (3-16-0, 2-6-0) returns seven starters to a team in search of its first postseason berth since 2005, including Brooke Piper, Danielle Kell and Christine Sadowski, who combined for nearly half of the Retrievers’ scoring output last season.