, Mass.—UMBC junior guard Carlee Cassidy (Syracuse, N.Y./Westhill) was selected to the America East Preseason All-Conference Team by the league's nine head women's basketball coaches, the conference announced Thursday afternoon as part of its annual women's basketball media day. In addition, the Retrievers were picked to finish fifth in the America East.
Just seven months after becoming the first Retriever ever to earn first-team all-conference nods in UMBC's five years in the America East, Cassidy added another program first to her résumé with the preseason all-conference recognition. The 5-9 guard emerged as one of the best players in the America East last season, leading the league with 17.0 points per game. An assassin from behind the arc, Cassidy knocked down 67 three-pointers in 2007-08, shattering UMBC's sophomore record and leading the conference with 2.39 triples per contest.
Joining Cassidy on the preseason all-conference team are Hartford's Erica Beverly and Diana Delva, Boston University's Jesyka Burks-Wiley and Vermont's Courtnay Pilypaitis. Pilypaitis, the reigning America East Player of the Year, and Beverly were both unanimous selections.
The fifth-place billing in the preseason coaches' poll is UMBC's highest since joining the America East in 2003, eclipsing the sixth-place predictions for each of the last two seasons.
For the first time in four years, a team other than Hartford is favored to win the America East, as Vermont received five first-place votes and 61 total points, narrowly edging the defending league champion Hawks, who garnered the remaining four first-place votes and 60 points.
Boston University received 50 points to finish third in the poll, while Albany (41) and UMBC (31) round out the top five. Binghamton (25), New Hampshire (22), Maine (18) and Stony Brook (16) complete the nine-team poll.
The Retrievers return seven players from last season's squad that finished 9-21 overall and 5-11 in league action. UMBC earned the No. 6 seed in the America East Championships but fell to third-seeded Boston University in the quarterfinals.
In addition to Cassidy, the Retrievers return 5-8 senior guard Chantay Frazier (Carthage, Miss./Choctaw Central/Seminole State), the team's third-leading scorer a year ago at 10.8 points per game, as well as 2008 America East All-Rookie Team selection Meghan Colabella (Montclair, N.J./Montclair), who averaged 10.4 points and shot 54.5 percent over the final seven games of the season.
Eight newcomers – seven freshmen and one junior college transfer – will join the Retrievers this season to help fill voids left by the graduation of guards Kristin Drabyn and Morgan Hatten and center Amanda Robinson. It is the largest incoming class in head coach Phil Stern's tenure, surpassing the six newcomers from last season.
"I think we will be a much deeper team and a much more versatile team this year with the influx of new players," Stern said. "It will be an exciting brand of basketball for our fans."
The Retrievers' season begins Saturday, Nov. 15, when UMBC visits perennial powerhouse George Washington at 2 p.m. The home slate opens Wednesday, Nov. 19, when the Retrievers host George Mason at 7 p.m. at the RAC Arena.
America East Preseason Coaches' Poll
School (1st-place votes) Points
1. Vermont (5) 61
2. Hartford (4) 60
3. Boston U. 50
4. Albany 41
5. UMBC 31
6. Binghamton 25
7. New Hampshire 22
8. Maine 18
9. Stony Brook 16
America East Preseason All-Conference Team
Erica Beverly, Hartford*
Jesyka Burks-Wiley, Boston University
Carlee Cassidy, UMBC
Diana Delva, Hartford
Courtnay Pilypaitis, Vermont*