2013 Little East Men's Lacrosse Preseason Coaches' Poll

NORTH DARTMOUTH, Mass. Eastern Connecticut has been selected as the favorite to capture the 2013 Little East men's lacrosse regular season title, according to the annual preseason coaches' poll that was released by the conference office this afternoon.

The Warriors tallied six out of the eight first place votes and 56 total points to edge rival Keene State by four markers. Eastern Connecticut debuted atop the men's lacrosse preseason coaches' survey for the third time in the past five years and eighth overall. The Owls received one first place vote to outdistance themselves from Massachusetts Dartmouth (41) for second place. Plymouth and Western Connecticut share the No. 4 spot with 33 points to complete the top half of the eight-team field.

Under the direction of Justin Axel, the Warriors claimed the conference regular season and tournament championship in 2012. Eastern Connecticut posted an overall record of 12-6 to reach double figures in wins for the fifth straight season. Axel led his charges to an undefeated 7-0 mark in the Little East circuit to earn home field advantage throughout the conference playoffs. Eastern Connecticut protected its home turf with victories over UMass Dartmouth (14-5) and Keene State (13-10). The win over the Owls marked the program's seventh Little East tournament title. The Warriors advanced to their second NCAA tournament appearance under Axel and seventh in program history.

Axel will welcome back 30 student-athletes, including five starters, from the 2012 squad. Eastern Connecticut is the lone conference squad to appear in the 2013 USILA Division III Preseason Poll, where the Warriors are receiving votes. Eastern Connecticut will sport the defending Little East Offensive Player of the Year on its roster in junior midfielder Mike Devine (Cheshire, Conn.). A 2012 USILA All-American, Devine shared the conference lead in goals (46), while also ranking among the leaders in points (4th, 58). The Warriors will face a strong test in their opener, when Eastern Connecticut hosts seventh-ranked Stevens at 4:00 p.m. on Feb. 27.

Head Coach Mark Theriault and his Owls are making their sixth appearance as the No. 2 ranked team in the 13-year history of the Little East preseason poll. In 2012, Keene State won 10 of its 16 games, but three of its four losses were decided by three or less goals, including 10-9 setback to then No. 19-ranked Rensselaer. The Owls closed strong down the stretch-winning their final six games by an average of 9.67 goals-to clinch the second seed in the conference championship tournament.

Keene State continued its run of success in the semifinals with a win against intra-state rival Plymouth State, setting up a showdown with top-seeded Eastern. The Owls outshot their hosts by a 55-33 margin, but Keene State was unable to solve Warrior senior goalie Jamie Tommins, who stopped a career-high 24 saves. Theriault will return a total of 25 student-athletes, including six starters, from last season's squad. The Owls will feature a pair of All-Little East, first-team selections in junior Taylor Jette (Simsbury, Conn.) and classmate Ian Hart (Richmond, N.H.). Keene State will host Bates College in its season-opener at 4:00 p.m. on Feb. 27.

The Little East sponsors a seven-game, round robin conference schedule with the top six teams in the final regular season standings advancing to the 2013 Little East Men's Lacrosse Championship. The top-two seeded teams receive a first-round bye and earn the right to host a semifinal round contest on Friday, May 3. Two days later, the two semifinal victors will square off in 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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