Thursday, August 21, 2008

UAlbany Is America East's 2008 Preseason Favorite In Field Hockey Coaches' Poll

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.

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