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LEAGUE COACHES TAB UMBC AS THE FAVORITE TO WIN AMERICA EAST MEN'S LACROSSE TITLE
America East newcomer University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) is the preseason favorite to win the men's lacrosse conference title this year, according to the coaches' poll. The Retrievers received five of a possible seven first-place votes and 47 points overall to outdistance defending champion University at Albany, which had two first-place votes and 42 points.
University of Vermont (31 points) was chosen third, followed by Stony Brook University (28). Quinnipiac University (22), Binghamton University (15) and University of Hartford (11) rounded out the 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 Men's Lacrosse Championship.
UMBC, which joined America East in 22 sports last fall, was 7-6 last season, with wins over nationally-ranked North Carolina and Towson. The Retrievers are No. 16 (Lacrosse Magazine) and No. 19 (Face-Off Yearbook) in the preseason polls. Senior midfielder Franklin Berry has increased his point total each year, scoring 12 goals and adding five assists last season. Sophomore Andy Gallagher had 21 points in his first four collegiate games before suffering a torn ACL. He is expected to be at full strength this season. Classmate Brendan Mundorf had 22 goals last season, the fourth best total in UMBC's Division I history. Head coach Don Zimmerman may utilize a 1-2 punch in goal with juniors Kevin Cepelak and Rick Metcalf.
Albany (10-6 overall, 4-1 in America East) completed its second year in America East with its first conference title. The Great Danes dropped a 16-10 decision at Princeton in the first round of the NCAA Championship. Junior attackman Luke Daquino returns after earning America East Player of the Year honors in 2003 when he scored 22 goals with 35 assists for 57 points in 16 games. He ranked No. 7 in the nation in assists per game (2.19) and No. 15 in points per game (3.56). Senior attackman Michael Solazzo had 32 goals and seven assists for 39 points in 15 games a season ago. Junior midfielder Brendan Russell was a first-team all-conference choice last season. Junior Kevin Rae (9-6, 10.03, .554), the Most Outstanding Player of the 2003 America East Championship, returns in goal for coach Scott Marr.
Vermont (5-8, 2-3) returned to the America East Championship, thanks in large part to junior all-conference goalkeeper Mike Gabel, who posted a 6.13 goals against average (second in the nation) and a .665 save percentage, which led the nation. The Catamounts led the nation in man-down defense (.867) and were second in scoring defense (6.31). Sophomore attackman Mike Maher (14 goals, 13 assists in 13 games) enjoyed a solid rookie season, earning second-team all-conference honors for coach Steve Beville.
Stony Brook (5-10, 3-2) advanced to the America East Championship game for the second time in as many seasons, after winning the title in 2002. Junior Kyle Pearl, a first-team all-conference choice, ranks among the top defenders in the conference. Pearl was third in the nation with 7.07 ground balls per game last year. Sophomore Jason Cappadoro ranked third in the conference in scoring with 26 goals and 17 assists for 43 points in 15 games. Senior Eric Hatkewitz was a second-team all-conference defender last year for coach John Espey.
Quinnipiac (3-10, 1-4) missed the America East Championship after qualifying in its first season in the conference in 2002. Sophomore midfielder Josh Murray was a second-team all-conference choice for coach Eric Fekete last year.
Binghamton (4-8, 1-4) made drastic improvements last season, just the Bearcats second as a program. Coach Ed Stephenson, a former All-American at Towson, had 23 freshmen on his roster a season ago, including second-team all-conference attackman Phil Cavallo, who was No. 6 in America East scoring with 27 goals and three assists for 30 points in 12 games. Classmate Kevin McKeown ranked 16th in the nation in goals against average (8.21) and 11th in save percentage (.607).
Hartford (4-1, 9-8) lost four all-conference choices to graduation, but midfielder Garett Kikot, the America East Rookie of the Year, returns for first-year coach Andy Towers.
The America East Championship will be held May 5 and 8 with the semifinals to be hosted by the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds and the championship game to be played at the higher remaining seed.
|Team (First Place Votes)||Points|