Empire 8 2011 Preseason Coaches' Poll

ROCHESTER, NY Defending conference champion Stevens Institute of Technology was selected as the top team in the Empire 8 Women's Lacrosse Preseason Coaches Poll. The Ducks, who shared the regular season title with Ithaca College and won the conference tournament last year, received five first-place votes in the poll.

Stevens enters the season ranked ninth in the Lacrosse Magazine Preseason Poll and 10th in the Intercollegiate Women's Lacrosse Coaches Association (IWLCA) Division III Preseason Poll. After winning their first conference title, the Ducks posted the program's first victory in the NCAA Division III Women's Lacrosse Championship.

The Ducks return two all-conference players in senior midfielder Christine Smith and senior defender Kate Cox. Smith has earned first-team all-conference recognition in each of her first three seasons and was named a second-team All-American last season. She is the school's all-time leader in draw controls (217) and has scored at least 40 goals all three seasons. Cox, a two-time first-team all-conference selection, totaled 59 ground balls and 29 caused turnovers. Senior attacker Leah Wasserman earned Most Valuable Player honors in the Empire 8 tournament and finished second on the team with 88 points and recorded a team-high 31 assists.

Ithaca, which shared the regular season title with Stevens and earned the top seed in the conference tournament, received four first-place votes and is picked to finish second in the preseason poll. The Bombers return three first-team all-conference players, including senior attacker Katie Hurley, who led the team with 39 goals, 57 points, and 26 draw controls in 2010. Junior Siobhan Sullivan totaled 24 ground balls, 25 draw controls, and 18 caused turnovers. Sophomore Michelle Avery contributed 16 goals and 23 draw controls in her rookie season.

Nazareth College, which finished 6-2 in regular season play and handed Ithaca its only regular season conference defeat, is the coaches' selection to place third this year. Senior defender Sarah McCaskill and senior attack Michelle Cook garnered first-team all-conference honors last season. McCaskill finished with 25 ground balls and 19 caused turnovers, while Cook led the team with 33 goals and 52 points, adding 22 ground balls and 27 draw controls.

Rochester Institute of Technology is the coaches' choice to edge St. John Fisher College for the fourth and final playoff spot. The Tigers posted a 6-2 record in conference play last season. Shelby Vakiener was named Empire 8 Rookie of the Year accolades, leading the team with 45 goals, 57 points, 57 ground balls, and 26 caused turnovers. Junior defender Megan Henriksen joined Vakiener on the all-conference first team, recording 33 ground balls and 30 draw controls.

St. John Fisher won the conference title in 2009 and will feature a squad of 14 first- and second-year players. The Cardinals return senior midfielder Meg Merriam, an honorable mention all-conference selection.

Utica College is the choice of the coaches to finish sixth this season after placing fifth last year. Junior Shelby Barbay was named the Empire 8 Goalkeeper of the Year in 2010, finishing with a .508 save percentage, 155 saves and 11.92 saves per game. In Empire 8 play, she led all goalkeepers with a .527 save percentage and 13.62 saves per game.

Elmira College, Hartwick College, and Alfred University finished in spots seven through nine, respectively, in the preseason poll. Junior attack Lindsay Mitchell has led the Soaring Eagles in scoring each of her first two seasons, totaling 78 goals. Junior midfielder Brittany LaVaute received honorable mention all-conference recognition for the Hawks in 2010. Senior attack Michelle Adams has led the Saxons in scoring in each of her first three seasons, garnering honorable mention all-conference honors each time.

2011 Empire 8 Women's Lacrosse Preseason Coaches' Poll
1. Stevens Institute of Technology (5) 61 points
2. Ithaca College (4) 60
3. Nazareth College 46
4. Rochester Institute of Technology 42
5. St. John Fisher College 40
6. Utica College 30
7. Elmira College 18
8. Hartwick College 14
9. Alfred University 13


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