2014 Northeast Conference Preseason Coaches' Poll

SMITHFIELD, R.I. Garnering all six possible first-place votes, Bryant University has been tabbed at the top of the 2014 Northeast Conference Preseason Coaches Poll, as announced by league officials Monday afternoon.

Following an 8-11 season that saw the Bulldogs win both the NEC Regular Season and Tournament crowns en route to the league's first-ever auto bid into the NCAA tournament, Bryant looks to defend its titles and three-peat as the conference's tournament champion in 2014.

But a familiar rival and a pair of league newcomers will be hot on Bryant's tail, as Robert Morris and new addition Hobart are both slated to finish second by the league's coaches. Saint Joseph's, the second of two new associate members, is predicted to finish fourth in the reconfigured Northeast Conference. Hobart received Bryant's first-place vote, as coaches may not vote for their own teams.

Sacred Heart, Mount St. Mary's who handed the Bulldogs their only league loss last season and Wagner round out the preseason predictions, taking fifth through seventh, respectively.

Bryant opens its home slate this Saturday, Feb. 15, hosting Bucknell at the Turf Complex at 1:00 p.m. as the Bulldogs look for their first victory of the season. League action begins March 22 at home against Hobart (1:00 p.m.).

2014 Northeast Conference Preseason Coaches' Poll
1. Bryant
2. Hobart
2. Robert Morris
4. Saint Joseph's
5. Sacred Heart
6. Mount St. Mary's
7. Wagner

* * * *

The Hobart College lacrosse team was picked to finish second in its inaugural season in the Northeast Conference in a vote of the league's head coaches. Two-time defending champion Bryant received all six possible first place votes.

The Statesmen, who received one first place vote (coaches did not rank their own team), shared the second spot with Robert Morris University. Saint Joseph's University was picked fourth followed by Sacred Heart University, Mount St. Mary's (Md.) University, and Wagner College.

Hobart returns seven starters, including its entire attack unit from last season. Seniors Alex Love, Cam Stone, and Jake McHenry comprised one of the most potent scoring trios in the nation. A USILA honorable mention All-American, Love scored a Hobart Division I record 45 goals (3rd in the nation in gpg) and led the team with 55 points. Stone was 15th in the nation in assists per game, handing out a team-high 29 helpers and finishing second with 49 points. McHenry has scored at least one goal in a team best 11 straight games and is coming off a 22-goal, 25-point season.

Junior midfielders Taylor Vanderbeek, Zach Reed, and Branden Kessler all started at least eight games and combined for 29 points last year.

Senior goaltender Peter Zonino is back for his third season as the starter between the pipes. With none of the three starting close defensemen returning in front of him, his experience will serve him well. He's finished in the top 12 in the nation in saves per game in each of the past two seasons, ranking 12th in 2013 (12.29) and first in 2012 (14.58).

Hobart left the ECAC Lacrosse League, which is expected to disband after this season, after nine seasons as a member. For the five seasons prior to that, the Statesmen competed as an associate member of the Patriot League. Hobart is seeking its first conference championship since winning the Patriot League title in 2002. The Statesmen also won the 2000 PL title.

Hobart opens its 112th varsity season at 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 15, when the Statesmen welcome Siena College to Boswell Field. The Saints begin their season tonight at Syracuse.

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