BOSTON – The UMBC women's soccer team has been picked to finish third in the America East's annual preseason poll, as announced by the conference office on Thursday. Voting was conducted by the conference's nine head coaches, who were not permitted to vote for their own teams.
"We are a brand new team," said UMBC head coach Leslie Wray. "We are going to have veteran players play in significant roles. I'm happy with the returners that have come back and the energy that we are getting from them. In addition, we have a lot of newcomers that are going to be able to play significant roles on the team.
"We want to be hitting our full stride once we hit conference play," Wray continued. "We want to start hitting our peak during that time. Conference play is always difficult and you can't take a game off. From the top to the bottom, there is a lot of parity amongst the teams."
The league's 2014 tournament champion New Hampshire received 63 votes and seven of the nine first-place notches. Hartford, the conference's regular-season champion from a year ago, came in second with 52 votes and one first-place selection, followed closely by the Retrievers with 50 votes and the remaining first-place tally.
UMBC has posted a pair of highly successful seasons over Wray's last two seasons at the helm, including a combined 25-10-5 record. Last season, the Retrievers posted its highest win total in non-conference action with eight victories before the start of the America East season and were ranked as high as No. 6 in the NSCAA/Continental Tire Northeast Region Poll.
This season presents a new challenge for the fourth-year head coach following the departure of a highly influential and experienced senior class that featured the two-time America East Midfielder of the Year in Jessy Brown. The Retrievers return 15 letterwinners and four starters from last year's squad that tied for second in the league.
Albany (39) and Maine (38) were separated by one vote for fourth and fifth place, respectively, followed by Stony Brook (31) in sixth, Binghamton (23) in seventh and UMass Lowell and Vermont tied for eighth with 14 votes apiece.
The Retrievers open the regular season at Navy on Friday, Aug. 21 at 7 p.m. at Glenn Warner Soccer Facility and host Bucknell on Sunday, Aug. 23 in their home-opener at 1 p.m. at Retriever Soccer Park.