CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – For the first time in program history, the UMBC women's soccer team has been picked as the preseason favorites to win its conference, as the Retrievers edged out Stony Brook, last season's regular-season co-champions, in the America East's annual preseason poll, as announced by the conference office on Wednesday. Voting was conducted by the conference's nine head coaches, who were not permitted to vote for their own teams.
The Retrievers, who received 59 votes, will look to replicate last season's historic run and defend their 2013 America East title when they open the 2014 season at the Retriever Soccer Park on Friday, Aug. 22 against Navy. UMBC completed the worst-to-first feat for the first time in league history and ranked third among NCAA Division I women's soccer teams in biggest turnarounds. The black and gold earned a share of the regular-season crown, as well as picking up the program's first-ever conference tournament title and NCAA Tournament appearance.
UMBC returns nine starters and 15 letterwinners for third-year head coach Leslie Wray. The Retrievers will have to replace three-time team captain Lauren Kadet, who graduated after becoming the program's all-time saves leader a season ago, but UMBC welcomes back four of its five All-Conference performers, including a wealth of last season's offensive weapons in America East Co-Midfielder of the Year Jessy Brown (Plantation, Fla./American Heritage) and the 2013 AE Fans' Choice Player of the Year Alexa Quaranta (Baltimore, Md./Perry Hall).
"It is a great honor to receive such high votes from the America East coaches," said Wray. "We are ecstatic to be voted first in the preseason poll, but we understand there is a lot of work to be done to return to the championship."
Stony Brook, who was edged out by one vote (58), will again look to make noise after finishing as co-champs during conference play and falling to the Retrievers in the America East Championships' title bout.
Maine finished third in the league in 2013 and advanced to the America East semifinals before falling in penalty kicks to SBU. The Black Bears and Hartford, who fell to the Retrievers in the semis, are picked to repeat their finishes from a season ago, with 49 and 47 votes, respectively. New Hampshire (32) and Vermont (30) look to round out the America East Championships field, followed by Binghamton (26) and Albany (13). UMass Lowell also received 13 votes in the poll, but is unable to compete in the conference tournament as they enter their second year of NCAA Division I competition.
2014 America East Preseason Poll
1. UMBC (59)
2. Stony Brook (58)
3. Maine (49)
4. Hartford (47)
5. New Hampshire (32)
6. Vermont (30)
7. Binghamton (26)
8. Albany (13)
9. UMass Lowell (13)