Football will kick off the Northeast Conference’s annual summer series of preseason fall coaches’ polls on August 3 when the league is set to host a media teleconference that will preview its 16th season on the gridiron. As football camp opens and student-athletes flock back to campuses in the days after, the NEC will release poll results and preview for all seven fall sports the conference sponsors. Below is a rundown of what to look for on NortheastConference.org come August.
2011 preseason poll: August 17
2011 championship: November 11 & 13 at high seed host site
2010 tournament champion: Monmouth (def. Saint Francis [PA], 1-0)
2010 regular season winner: Monmouth
2010 preseason favorite: Monmouth (unanimous)
Overtime! Preseason Synopsis: Monmouth has finished atop the regular season each of the last six years while emerging as a national power under head coach Rob McCourt. The Hawks, who were ranked as high as No. 4 in the NSCAA/HendrickCars.com National Top 25 last year, won their second straight NEC Tournament title when they edged Saint Francis (PA) 1-nil. The Hawks will certainly miss former All-Americans Bryan Meredith and Ryan Kinne, who were both selected in the 2011 MLS Superdraft, but are fortunate enough to return All-American RJ Allen to the back line. Monmouth will look to make it seven regular season titles in a row, but its road won’t be an easy one. … Sacred Heart finished second in the 2010 NEC standings and the Pioneers return All-American defense this season in the form of junior back Marcello Castro. … Under head coach Mike Casper, Saint Francis (PA) has made two NEC final appearances since 2007 but has fallen by a 1-0 margin on each occasion. … The highly-respected Seth Roland always has Fairleigh Dickinson in the title mix. The Knights suffered a 1-0 defeat to Garden State rival Monmouth in the 2010 NEC semifinal and last took the tournament crown in 2008. … Central Connecticut had one-win last season, but is not that far removed from a 2007 run to the NCAA Sweet 16.
NEC members who play men’s soccer: Bryant, Central Connecticut, Fairleigh Dickinson, Long Island, Monmouth, Mount St. Mary’s, Quinnipiac, Robert Morris, Sacred Heart, St. Francis (NY), Saint Francis (PA), Wagner
2011 preseason poll: August 18
2011 championship: November 4 & 6 at high seed host site
2010 tournament champion: Saint Francis (PA) (def. Long Island, 1-0)
2010 regular season winner: Long Island
2010 preseason favorite: Monmouth
Overtime! Preseason Synopsis: Last year’s preseason poll favorite – Monmouth – was not even one of the four teams to qualify for the NEC Tournament. Falling victim to the increasingly-competitive landscape of NEC women’s soccer, Krissy Turner’s Hawks, who won their fourth conference crown in 2009, lost out to Central Connecticut for the fourth, and final, berth into the 2010 NEC Tournament by virtue of a head-to-head tiebreaker. … Central’s run ended in the NEC semifinal at the hand of regular season champion Long Island. The tournament title wound up going to a Saint Francis (PA) team that went onto play a double-overtime affair against Ohio State in the NCAA First Round. The Red Flash escaped the NEC semifinal round by outlasting Quinnipiac in penalty kicks before topping LIU, 1-0, in the final. Saint Francis returns all three of its all-region players from last year’s team and appears to have a promising future under Dutch-born head coach Brenda van Stralen. The Flash will look to become the first team to win a repeat title since Central Connecticut accomplished the feat in 2005. … Quinnipiac has made back-to-back NEC Tournament appearances, but hasn’t won it all since 2000. The Bobcats are just one of the tough tests Saint Francis will face in a conference that may be as balanced as ever.
NEC members who play women’s soccer: Bryant, Central Connecticut, Fairleigh Dickinson, Long Island, Monmouth, Mount St. Mary’s, Quinnipiac, Robert Morris, Sacred Heart, Saint Francis (PA), Wagner
2011 preseason poll release: August 11
2011 championship: November 4-5 at high seed host site
2010 tournament champion: Rider (defeated Monmouth, 1-0)
2010 regular season winner: Rider
2010 preseason favorite: Rider
Overtime! Preseason Synopsis: Rider and Monmouth, who have played a pair of down-to-the-wire thrillers in NEC Tournament play over the past two seasons, are sure to be near the top of the coaches’ list when the poll results come out on August 11. Bryant’s stock is bullish under head coach Shaunessy Saucier who had the Bulldogs in the four-team NEC postseason bracket in their first season of eligibility. Senior leaders Courtney Landi and Katherine Andrusin are back for the Bulldogs who won five of seven league games last year. … The always-steady Quinnipiac has qualified for the NEC Tournament each of the last four years and Becca Kohli’s Bobcats will look to end an eight-year title drought.
NEC members who play field hockey: Bryant, Monmouth, Quinnipiac, Rider (associate), Robert Morris, Sacred Heart, Saint Francis (PA), Siena (associate)
2011 preseason poll release: August 16
2011 championship: November 19-20 at high seed host site
2010 tournament champion: Sacred Heart (defeated Robert Morris, 3-0)
2010 regular season winner: Sacred Heart
2010 preseason favorite: Long Island
Overtime! Preseason Synopsis: The last dozen years of NEC volleyball has been a story of dynasties. First, Robert Morris captured the NEC Tournament crown in 1999 and held it until 2004 when Long Island begin its unprecedented run under head coach Toby Rens. The Blackbirds rattled off four straight titles before Rens left for Pittsburgh, but were left in good hands as former US National Team member Kyle Robinson took the reins and LIU won it all again in 2008 and 2009. … Robert Morris ended Long Island’s quest for NEC title No. 7 in the 2010 NEC semifinal round, but Dale Starr’s Colonials had no answer for a potent Sacred Heart attack in the final. … Sacred Heart won the NEC regular season and tournament crowns last year, with both feats marking program firsts. Could reigning NEC Coach of the Year Rob Machan be putting together the league’s next dynasty in Fairfield? It’s obviously way too early to tell, not to mention there are eight other NEC members who have other ideas.
NEC members who play volleyball: Bryant, Central Connecticut, Fairleigh Dickinson, Long Island, Quinnipiac, Robert Morris, Sacred Heart, St. Francis (NY), Saint Francis (PA)
Men’s Cross Country
2011 preseason poll release: August 9
2011 championship: October 29 at Holmdel Park (Holmdel, NJ)
2010 champion: Central Connecticut
2010 preseason favorite: Central Connecticut
Overtime! Preseason Synopsis: The NEC title hasn’t left the state of Connecticut since 2005, but it no longer permanently resides in Hamden. Quinnipiac won four conference crowns in five years (2004-08), including three in a row, but cross-state rival Central Connecticut has bumped the Bobcats from their spot atop the NEC. An accomplished harrier himself, Eric Blake has coached the Blue Devils to back-to-back team titles. … Central lost one part of last year’s podium sweep with the graduation of Ry Sanderson, but its roster has enough depth to minimize the impact. … CCSU’s Craig Hunt, the 2010 NEC bronze medalist, was one of five sophomores to finish in the top-15 at the NEC championship meet. The group also included second-year Wagner Seahawk Zachary Spector and a pair of Saint Francis (PA) harriers – Shaun Foley and Sean Kirby – who will make the Red Flash a contender once again.
NEC members who compete in men’s cross country: Bryant, Central Connecticut, Fairleigh Dickinson, Long Island, Monmouth, Mount St. Mary’s, Quinnipiac, Robert Morris, Sacred Heart, St. Francis (NY), Saint Francis (PA), Wagner
Women’s Cross Country
2011 preseason poll release: August 10
2011 championship: October 29 at Holmdel Park (Holmdel, NJ)
2010 champion: Quinnipiac
2010 preseason favorite: Quinnipiac
Overtime! Preseason Synopsis: Quinnipiac will take aim at an unprecedented seventh consecutive NEC team title when the conference’s 12 teams ascend upon Holmdel Park come late October. The Bobcats will certainly miss Kristin Stevens, a two-time individual NEC champion who overcame injury and posted a top-5 finish as a fifth-year senior at last year’s meet. Even without Stevens, Carolyn Martin’s enters 2011 with a first-class collection of talent. Four of the Bobcats’ five scorers at the 2010 NEC Championship were underclassmen. … With juniors Jennifer Nelson and Kelsey Maher, Monmouth, the 2010 NEC runner-up, will be in the title mix once again under reigning NEC Coach of the Year Joe Compagni. … Sacred Heart has been a top-3 team finisher every year since 2005, but the Pioneers lost their lone all-NEC performer from last year’s squad – Kimberly DeLoreto — to graduation.
NEC members who compete in women’s cross country: Bryant, Central Connecticut, Fairleigh Dickinson, Long Island, Monmouth, Mount St. Mary’s, Quinnipiac, Robert Morris, Sacred Heart, St. Francis (NY), Saint Francis (PA), Wagner