Northeast Conference 2011 Preseason Poll

Somerset, NJ -- Northeast Conference (NEC) head coaches are forecasting a three-team race for the 2011 NEC women's lacrosse title. Sacred Heart, the three-time defending NEC champion, along with in-state rival Quinnipiac, were chosen as co-favorites, just edging out Monmouth for the top spot.

Quinnipiac received three first place votes and Sacred Heart earned two, while Monmouth picked up five first place nods despite being picked third. Mount St. Mary's and Robert Morris tied for fourth in the poll, followed by Wagner in sixth and Bryant in seventh. Saint Francis (PA) was tabbed eighth with Long Island and Central Connecticut State rounding out the ten-team field.

Sacred Heart (14-5, 9-0 NEC) earned its third consecutive NEC Tournament title last year, scoring five straight goals in a second half rally to defeat Quinnipiac, 12-7. The win capped off a remarkable season for the Pioneers, who also claimed their third straight NEC regular season crown with a perfect 9-0 record and engineered a school-record 12-game winning streak before falling to Navy in the NCAA Play-In. As Sacred Heart sets out to defend its title, reigning NEC Coach of the Year Laura Cook does have to some holes to fill. Gone are NEC Player of the Year Carissa Hauser and NEC Goalkeeper of the Year Chelsea Wagner. With four of the team's top six scorers having graduated, Cook, now in her 12th year, will look to junior Kate Kmiotek (Farmingville, NY/Sachem East) for both leadership and offense. A first team All-NEC midfielder and two-time conference all-star, Kmiotek tied for the team lead last season with 47 goals and finished second with 58 points. She posted three game-winning goals and ranked in the NEC top-10 in goals (sixth, 2.47/game) and points (tenth, 3.05/game). Junior attacker Kaitlin Rochler (Wading River, NY/Shoreham-Wading River) returns after scoring 23 goals last season, including four in Sacred Heart's NEC Tournament semifinal win over Mount St. Mary's. After missing the last two seasons, senior midfielder Jessica Ingrilli (Wantagh, NY/Wantagh) should provide a spark with her return to the lineup. Ingrilli was a second team All-NEC honoree as a freshman in 2008 when she scored 28 goals and led the team with 50 ground balls and 24 caused turnovers. Senior defenders Nicole Messina (Smithtown, NY/Hauppauge) and Elizabeth Drehwing (Wyckoff, NJ/Ramapo) will anchor a defense that allowed an NEC-low 5.82 goals against average in conference play. Drehwing earned recognition on the NEC All-Tournament team last season.

Quinnipiac (10-7, 8-1 NEC) has reached the NEC title game in each of the last three seasons but remains in search of the program's first-ever conference championship. The Bobcats have posted a 22-3 NEC regular season record since 2008 and figure to be in the title mix once again in 2011 under the leadership of Danie Caro. Now in her sixth year at the helm, Caro returns a wealth of talent, including three all-conference performers. Senior Kaitlyn Kelly (North Massapequa, NY/Plainedge) is the reigning NEC Defensive Player of the Year. The ringleader of one of the league's stingiest defensive units, Kelly ranked fourth on the circuit last season with 1.47 caused turnovers per game, and also led the Bobcats with 44 draw controls and 41 ground balls. The Bobcats can control the midfield with the tandem of senior Lauren Matuszczak (East Longmeadow, MA/East Longmeadow) and junior Devon Gibney (Hopkinton, MA/Hopkinton). Both were first team All-NEC honorees a year ago. Gibney finished second on the Bobcats with 39 goals and tied for the league lead with 16 free position tallies. She also ranked fifth in the NEC in goals per game (2.60) and seventh in points per game (3.27). Matuszczak was named to the NEC All-Tournament game after she scored four goals in two matches. She was the seventh-leading distributor in the conference with 1.0 assists per game and finished with 16 on the year. Junior Marissa Caroleo (North Babylon, NY/North Babylon), who was the 2009 NEC Rookie of the Year, is a prolific goal scorer who ranked third in the NEC with 2.6 goals per game. Sophomores Sarah Allen (Glastonbury, CT/Glastonbury) (10 goals, 12 assists) and Chelsea Guerrera (Wantagh, NY/Wantagh) (15 goals, eight assists) were both named to the NEC All-Rookie team last season.

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2011-02-09



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