Western Field Hockey voted sixth in 2012 LEC Pre-Season Coaches Poll

From the desk of Jack Holleran - LEC Director of Communications

NORTH DARTMOUTH, MA (Aug. 22) —  Keene State College has been selected as the preseason favorite to capture the 2012 Little East field hockey regular-season title, according to a vote by the conference’s 12 head coaches. The Owls penned seven first place votes and a total of 136 points into their ledger to make the program’s seventh appearance atop the annual coaches survey.

University of Massachusetts Dartmouth and Plymouth State University were the only other institutions to break the 100-point barrier with the Corsairs edging the Panthers by five points (129-124). UMass Dartmouth received three first-place tallies, while Plymouth State earned the remaining two votes. Bridgewater State University finished just under the 100-point threshold with 96. The top-four teams in the final regular-season standings earn home field advantage in the quarterfinal round of the 2012 Little East Field Hockey Championship tournament.

Keene State is ranked atop the preseason coaches’ poll for the first time since 2009 after setting the program single-season wins record (20) in 2011. Under the direction of Amy Watson, the Owls posted an overall record of 20-5, including an unblemished 11-0 mark within the conference circuit, to surpass the previous standard set by the 2003 squad (19-6). Keene State captured the regular-season championship and earned home field advantage throughout the Little East tournament. The Owls raised the program’s eighth Little East field hockey championship trophy with a 2-0 victory over second-seeded Plymouth State to advance to the NCAA Division III Championship. Keene State registered the program’s first NCAA win against Endicott College, defeating the Gulls 2-0 to make its first appearance into the second round. The Owls bowed out of the national tournament with a loss at top-ranked Bowdoin College.

Watson will welcome six starters and a total of 16 student-athletes back into the fold from the 2011 record-breaking squad. Sophomore goalkeeper Caitlin Davino-Draper will return for her second season in between the pipes for Keene State. The 2011 Little East Rookie of the Year backstopped the Owls to the top-ranked defense in the Little East, allowing just 1.14 goals per game and posting 10 shutouts.  The Owls will open their 2012 schedule at 1:30 p.m. on Sept. 1, when Keene State hosts Western New England.

UMass Dartmouth is making its debut at No. 2 in the annual preseason coaches’ survey after spending the past two seasons as the preseason favorite. Last season, Nicole Castonguay-Maher guided the Corsairs to double-digit victories for the fourth-straight season with a 10-10 mark, and finished third in the conference race with an 8-3 record. UMass Dartmouth scored a 4-1 win over sixth-seeded Worcester State in the quarterfinal round of the Little East field hockey tournament to set up a semifinal round match at second-seeded Plymouth State. The Corsairs were denied their third consecutive trip to the conference championship, when the Panthers registered the game-winning goal in overtime to edge the visitors 3-2.

In 2012, Castonguay-Maher will return five student-athletes that reached double figures in scoring last season. Senior forward Erica Allan (Amherst, Mass.) is UMass Dartmouth’s top-scoring threat after producing 10 goals and three assists for 23 points in 2011. Classmate back Taryn Cardiel (Moorpark, Calif.), who registered 16 points (5-6), will also provide offensive pressure during penalty corner restarts. The Corsairs will begin their 2012 season at noon on Sept. 1, when UMass Dartmouth travels to No. 20 MIT.

Plymouth State is ranked third in the preseason poll for the third time in the past five seasons. In 2011, the Panthers matched the program’s single-season wins record (18), tying the standard established by the 2004 club. Under the watchful eye of Bonnie Lord, Plymouth State posted an overall record of 18-4, including a 10-1 mark in the Little East. The Panthers secured the second seed in the conference tournament, and protected their home field advantage with wins over Western Connecticut (5-0) and UMass Dartmouth (2-1 OT). Plymouth State made its eighth appearance in the championship match, but fell to intra-state rival Keene State. Lord guided the Panthers to their 11th postseason appearance, earning the top-seed in the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) Division III New England tournament. Plymouth State defeated league rival Bridgewater State in the semifinals before falling short against Mount Holyoke.

The Panthers will feature one of the most prolific offenses in the conference circuit in 2012 with the return of three student-athletes that scored at least 28 points last fall. In 2011, junior forward Jackie Morin (Scarborough, Maine) led the Plymouth State with 17 goals and six assists for 40 points, while senior forward Olivia Colborn (Lancaster, N.H.) was just five points short of the lead. The Panthers begin their 2012 campaign at the Springfield College Invitational on Sept. 1, when Plymouth State faces Brockport State.

Completing the annual preseason coaches’ survey in projected order of finish in the regular-season standings are University of Southern Maine (84), Western Connecticut State University (74), Worcester State University (70), Westfield State University (69), Fitchburg State University (65), Salem State University (34), Framingham State University (31), and Eastern Connecticut State University (16).

The Little East Conference sponsors an 11-game conference schedule with each team playing each other once. The top-eight teams in the final regular-season standings advance to the 2012 Little East Field Hockey Championship. The championship match is scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 3 with the tournament champion receiving the conference’s automatic qualifier into the NCAA Division III Championship.

Formed in 1986, the Little East serves as New England's premier athletic conference for public institutions in NCAA Division III. Featuring 19 championship sports, the Little East sponsors quality competition in every season for our student athletes. Our eight state colleges and universities dedicate themselves to an ongoing fulfillment of the Division III mission of passion, responsibility, sportsmanship, and citizenship.

2012 Little East Field Hockey Preseason Coaches' Poll

Rank

Institution

First Place Votes

Total Points

1

Keene State College

7

136

2

University of Massachusetts Dartmouth

3

129

3

Plymouth State University

2

124

4

Bridgewater State University

 

96

5

University of Southern Maine

 

84

6

Western Connecticut State University

 

74

7

Worcester State University

 

70

8

Westfield State University

 

69

9

Fitchburg State University

 

65

10

Salem State University

 

34

11

Framingham State University

 

31

12

Eastern Connecticut State University

 

16