Sunday, July 27, 2008

UAlbany Football, Field Hockey, And Volleyball Picked Preseason Favorites

Courtesy: UAlbany Sports Information

Somerset, N.J. – According to a preseason poll of Northeast Conference head coaches, the University at Albany has been chosen to defend its conference football championship in 2008. The Great Danes, who became the fifth team in NEC history to go undefeated in league play en route to last year’s title, received five first-place votes. Monmouth placed second in the voting with two first-place votes, while Central Connecticut State was third with one vote to finish first in the standings.

This year’s NEC champion will host the winner of the Pioneer Football League in the third annual Gridiron Classic, an exempted postseason football game that takes place on Saturday, Dec. 6. The Northeast Conference receives an automatic NCAA Division I FCS playoff berth, beginning in 2010. In addition, Duquesne joins the conference as its eighth football-playing member this season.

“Our school and program are respected and that’s a major reason why we were voted to win the conference,” said UAlbany’s Bob Ford, who leads all active FCS head coaches with 225 career victories. “Our offensive line has a strong nucleus returning and we have a great tailback. The defense is solid with some key players back from last year. But I tell the squad every day that we have arrived at a point where you can lose on any weekend in this conference.”

The Great Danes, who won the NEC crown for the third time since joining the league in 1999, finished with an 8-4 overall record. Coach Ford has 46 letterwinners, including 11 starters, back from last year’s championship team. UAlbany has produced seven or more wins six times as an Division I FCS program.


2008 Northeast Conference Preseason Coaches Football Poll

1. UAlbany (5), 2. Monmouth (2), 3. Central Connecticut State (1), 4. Wagner, 5. Duquesne, 6. Robert Morris, 7. Sacred Heart, 8. St. Francis, Pa. ( ) – first-place votes


Somerset, N.J. – The Northeast Conference announced its 2008 preseason all-conference football team. UAlbany had six players voted to the squad by the conference’s head coaches. Nineteen of the 25 student-athletes on the preseason all-star unit earned NEC postseason honors last year.

David McCarty, who was named to the Sports Network FCS All-America team, ran for 1,503 yards, the third-highest single-season total in program history. The junior tailback ranked 10th among the nation’s rushing leaders at 125.3 yards per game. McCarty, who also totaled 1,634 all-purpose yards, gained 100 or more yards on the ground in eight games. He was a second-team All-NEC selection in 2007.

Raphael Nguti, a 6-foot-7, 330-pound right tackle, and Kevin Richards, a 6-foot-2, 270-pound center, were also voted to the league’s preseason team. Nguti, a first-team All-NEC lineman, has made 33 career appearances and may have an opportunity to play at the next level with his size. Richards anchored a line that helped the offense average 208.6 rushing yards and 362.5 total yards per game.

Defensive tackle Tom Pandolf was one of five UAlbany players who were named to last season’s all-conference first team. He accounted for 37 tackles, three sacks and 6.5 hits for a loss. Justin Brancaccio, a junior inside linebacker, was second on the UAlbany defense in tackles with 63 and added two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. Dave West, a senior safety, made 60 tackles, including 44 unassisted, and had five pass break-ups and two interceptions. West earned second-team All-NEC recognition last season.

Courtesy: America East Communications

If the head coaches’ predictions hold true, a new champion will be crowned at the 2008 America East Field Hockey Championship this November. University at Albany topped the 2008 preseason coaches’ poll, voted on by all six field hockey head coaches across the conference, which would end Boston University’s three-year reign as tournament champions. The Great Danes received four first-place votes out of a maximum of five and 24 total points to edge out the Terriers who received two first-place votes and 22 points.

Albany (15-5 overall record in 2007, 4-1 America East record) fell to Boston University (18-6, 5-0) in last year’s final by a 4-1 score.

This year’s field hockey championship will take place November 7 and 9 and will be hosted by the highest seed with an artificial turf surface. The top four teams from the regular season will participate in the tournament, with the winner of the championship receiving an automatic berth to the NCAA Championship.

University of Vermont (16 points) and University of New Hampshire (14 points) were picked to finish the season third and fourth, respectively, while University of Maine (nine points) and Fairfield University (five points) rounded out the six-team poll.

The Great Danes finished runners-up to the Terriers last year in both the regular season and the tournament, and are searching for their first America East crown. Albany turned in the second-most productive offense in the league last year largely due to senior midfielder Michelle Simpson (Midlesbrough, England/University of Teesside), a second-team All-American recording 34 points, who returns with one more year of eligibility. Head coach Phil Sykes’ team also has America East first-team goalkeeper senior Ashley Ross (Lancaster, Pa./Conestoga Valley), who led America East with a 1.14 goals against average in 2007. Juniors Nicole Savage (Wilkes-Barr, Pa./James M. Coughlin) and Jess Lindsey (Norristown, Pa./Methacton) will also look to produce results after putting up 31 and 19 points, respectively, last year.

The Terriers lost a senior class that led the team to four straight regular season titles and three consecutive trips to the NCAA Tournament, but head coach Sally Starr’s squad hopes to replace that experience with nine freshmen and two transfers in addition to the returning athletes. Boston U. boasts the 2007 America East Rookie of the Year in sophomore goalkeeper Kim Kastuk (Putnam Valley, N.Y./Putnam Valley) as well as senior backs Lizzie Perreault (Teaticket, Mass./Falmouth) and Holly Wiles (Harare, Zimbabwe/Arundel School), who all should make for a very strong defensive unit. Junior Gabby Hajjar (Ottawa Hills, Ohio/Ottawa Hills) is the highest-scoring returner up front with 2007 totals of nine goals, one assist and 19 points.

Vermont (12-7, 3-2) is coming off one of its most successful seasons, tying the program’s record for total wins, and will try to continue that momentum into 2008. Leading the team should be two returning first-team all-conference picks, seniors Kim Striegler (Whitney Point, N.Y./Whitney Point) and Maegan Luce (Hartford, Vt./Hartford). Luce, a forward, notched seven goals and eight assists last season, while Striegler posted 12 points on four goals and four assists from the midfield a year ago.

New Hampshire (9-12, 2-3) will feature a pair of second-team all-conference selections in junior forward Megan Shea (Melrose, Mass./Melrose) and junior back Kiera Williams (Dover, N.H./St. Thomas Aquinas), while senior Sarah Craigue (Concord, N.H./Concord) will also provide a veteran presence up front. Despite missing three games due to injury, Craigue still finished second on the team in both points (13) and assists (five) last year. The hardest decision for 18th-year head coach Robin Balducci may be at goalkeeper, where two rookies and a sophomore will be vying for the job.

Josette Babineau’s Black Bears (5-11, 1-4) also have a void at the goalkeeper position which they hope to fill with either rookie Brittany Fleck (Vancouver, British Columbia/Crofton House School) or classmate Elizabeth Anderson (Morrill, Maine/Kent’s Hill). Maine has a young squad in 2008, but has a talented sophomore class which placed back Maire Dineen (Toronto, Ontario/Michael Power-St. Joseph) and midfielders Brittney Cummings (Belfast, Maine/Belfast) and Courtney Veinotte (Canaan, Maine/Skowhegan) on the 2007 All-Rookie team.

Fairfield (3-17, 0-5) begins its second season in America East on a quest to reach its first conference championship. Senior forwards Emily Janis (East Hampton, N.Y./East Hampton) and Molly Byrnes (Greenwich, Conn./Greenwich) were consistent performers for the Stags last year, each posting a team-high eight points and playing in the starting lineup. Janis and Byrnes will be leaders on a team which welcomes nine freshmen.

Courtesy: UAlbany Sports Information

Cambridge, Mass. – The University at Albany volleyball team was picked to finish first in the America East Conference preseason poll, as voted by the league’s head coaches and announced on Tuesday afternoon. The Great Danes, who have won three of the last four America East championships, received four first-place votes for 33 total points.

UAlbany edged out New Hampshire in the voting, as the Wildcats garnered two first-place votes and 31 points. UMBC earned the final first-place vote to finish third in the poll, followed by Binghamton, Stony Brook, Hartford and Maine.

UAlbany became the first America East program to win a match in the NCAA Tournament, defeating Cleveland State, 3-0, last season. The Great Danes return 2007 conference rookie of the year Amanda Cowdrey and the postseason championship’s most outstanding player Brooke Stanley. UAlbany will retain much of its youth from last season, with just two seniors gracing a 13-player roster. The list includes all-conference first-team middle blocker Kamisha Kellam, who was among the league leaders last season in hitting percentage (.327), kills (3.24 kpg) and blocks (1.06 bpg).

The 2008 America East volleyball championship will take place November 21-23 at the top seed’s home court. The top four teams from the regular season will participate in the championship and the tournament winner will earn an automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament.

UAlbany starts the 2008 season on August 29 at San Diego State’s Aztec Invitational.

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