Little East Announces 2013 Preseason Lacrosse Coaches' Poll

NORTH DARTMOUTH, Mass. Plymouth State has been projected to repeat as the Little East women's lacrosse regular-season champions, accordingly to the 2013 preseason coaches' poll that was released by the conference office this afternoon. The Panthers received six of the seven first place votes and 48 total points to earn top honors in the preseason survey for the sixth time in program history.

Keene State College, the two-time defending tournament champions, captured the remaining first place vote and 40 total points to secure the second position in the 12th edition of the Little East women's lacrosse preseason coaches' poll. Eastern Connecticut State University and Western Connecticut State University are tied for third in the seven-team field with 30 points each.

Under the watchful eye of Kristin Blanchette, Plymouth State directed her charges to the program's first outright conference regular-season championship since 2006. Last spring, the Panthers posted an overall record of 13-2, marking the most single-season wins in program history over the past six seasons. Plymouth State completed the 2012 Little East schedule with an unblemished 6-0 record to earn the top-seed in the conference championship tournament. The Panthers had their tournament run cut short by upset-minded Western Connecticut in the semifinals (10-9).

Blanchette will welcome 15 student-athletes, including 10 starters, back into the fold from the 2012 edition. Plymouth State produced the sixth most powerful offense in the nation last spring, averaging 16.7 goals per game. The Panthers are expected to bolster another explosive offensive attack, spearheaded by sophomore Meghan McNabb (Lexington, Mass.). McNabb, the 2012 Little East Rookie of the Year, ranked among the national leaders in assists per game (6th, 3.14), while leading the conference circuit in points per game (6.07). Plymouth State will open its 2013 slate at 5:00 p.m. on March 6, when the Panthers travel to Springfield College. Blanchette and her charges will meet Keene State at 4:00 p.m. on April 16 in Keene, N.H.

Head Coach Katie Arsenault led Keene State to the program's most successful season in 2012, establishing a new standard for single-season victories with a 15-4 mark. The Owls are making their fourth appearance as the No. 2 seed in the preseason coaches' poll, joining the 2005, 2009, and 2012 squads. A year ago, Keene State placed second in the Little East standings with a 5-1 record and earned the No. 2 seed in the Little East Championship. The Owls edged rival Eastern Connecticut (7-6) in the semifinals to advance to the championship game against the Colonels. Keene State raced past Western to capture the program's third conference title in the past four years and secure a spot in the NCAA Division III Women's Lacrosse tournament field.

The Owls will return a total of 16 student-athletes from the 2012 squad, including 10 starters. Keene State will welcome back three of its top-five scorers from last spring. Junior Eliza Witherbee (Newburyport, Mass.) paced the Owls in goals (46), and points (62), while ranking third in assists (16). The Owls will kick off their 2013 campaign at 4:00 p.m., when Keene State hosts Springfield College.

The Little East sponsors a six-game conference schedule with the top six squads in the final regular season standings advancing to the 2013 Little East Women's Lacrosse Championship. The top-two seeds receive a first-round bye and earn the right to host a semifinal round contest on Thursday, May 3. Two days later, the two semifinal winners advance to the championship round at the highest remaining seed. The Little East champion will earn the conference's automatic qualifier into the NCAA Division III Tournament.

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