The Pioneers have been picked to finish the 2010 season fifth in the eight team Northeast Conference. Sacred Heart is coming off of a season in which they missed the post season for the first time since 1999, their first year in division I. The poll, which was released by the league office yesterday, named Rider the preseason favorite to capture the league championship.
The Northeast Conference will crown a new tournament champion as Lock Haven, the four time defending champions, departs from the league. After falling in the NEC title game last season Monmouth earned the number two spot in the poll, garnering one first place vote. The final first place vote and third place in the in the poll went to Quinnipiac. For the first time ever Bryant is eligible for post season play at the division I level. The Bulldogs are projected to make that appearance as they occupy the number four spot in the preseason rankings.
Sacred Heart, who finished 2009 with a 3-5 conference record, returns both of their top two scorers from a season ago. Junior Chelsea Carlson ((Peterborough, NH) paced the team with her 14 points, six goals and two assists. Close behind was senior midfielder Dana Luhrs (Milford, PA) who tallied four goals and three assists in 2009. Luhrs also earned second team All-Northeast Conference honors a season ago.
The poll was rounded out by Saint Francis (PA), Siena and Robert Morris in sixth, seventh and eighth, respectively. In each of the past four seasons the preseason poll has correctly predicted the eventual league champions.
The Pioneers start their season on the road August 27th against Lehigh after two exhibition games. SHU will have its home opener at Campus Field on September 10th in a meeting with cross town rival Fairfield University. The team will open conference play October 10th in a home meeting against the Bobcats of Quinnipiac. Sacred Heart will look to continue its season into the NEC tournament, which will be held November 5th and 6th at the home of the regular season champion.