The University of Maine youthful women’s soccer team, with just one senior on its roster, has been picked to finish eighth in the nine-team America East preseason poll.
The Black Bears are coming off a season in which they failed to make the America East playoffs as they went 3-5 in the conference to finish seventh. Six teams qualify with the top two finishers earning first-round byes.
They wound up 5-10-1 overall.
UMaine had qualified for the tournament the previous five seasons but the Black Bears have never won the conference tourney.
The Black Bears beat eventual AE tournament champion Stony Brook, and lost in overtime to regular season co-champions New Hampshire and Binghamton.
New Hampshire was chosen by the league’s coaches to again finish on top as the Wildcats earned 57 points and four of the nine first-place votes.
Stony Brook was picked second with 54 points and three-first-place votes. They are followed Binghamton (52 points, 1 first-place vote), Hartford (44, 1), Albany (36), Vermont (34), UMass Lowell (20), UMaine (18) and the University of Maryland Baltimore County (9).
Former Oxford Hills of South Paris standout Mikayla Morin, a defender, is the only senior on the Black Bear roster as 20th-year head coach Scott Atherley brought in 12 freshmen to go with seven sophomores and seven juniors.
Included on his roster are four goalkeepers.
“The only poll that is relevant is the final (standings),” Atherley said. “This poll is reflective of where teams finished last year. I don’t know if anybody pays attention to the poll, but when you look at it, we’re in a no-lose situation. If the other teams believe the poll, they may look past you, and it also gives our players incentive to demonstrate who we are.
“We have a great nucleus of returning players to go with a really talented freshman class,” Atherley added.
One area in which the Black Bears will need to improve is in goal production as they were held to only 12 goals in 16 games and only scored more than one goal in a game on one occasion: a 2-1 win over Marist College (New York).
UMaine will open the season at the University of Massachusetts Aug. 16.
CAA football has six nationally-ranked teams
The Colonial Athletic Association led all Football Championship Subdivision conferences in nationally ranked teams by placing six of its 12 teams in the STATS FCS Preseason Top 25 poll.
James Madison University of Harrisonburg, Virginia, which won the FCS title two years ago and lost to North Dakota State 17-13 in last year’s national championship game, is picked second in the country behind North Dakota State
The University of New Hampshire was picked seventh, and the Wildcats will open the season by visiting the University of Maine for a Thursday night game on Aug. 30 at 7 p.m.
Elon (North Carolina) was picked 12th, the University of Delaware was 15th, Villanova (Pennsylvania) was 19th and Stony Brook (New York) was the nation’s No. 20 team.
The University of Maine will play three of those six teams, and all of those games will be played at Morse Field in Alfond Stadium.
Besides UNH, UMaine will entertain Villanova on Saturday, Oct. 6, at 3:30 p.m., and Elon on Saturday, Nov. 17, at noon.
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