FAIRFIELD, Conn. – The Sacred Heart women's lacrosse team has been picked to finish fifth in the Northeast Conference, as the league released its preseason coaches poll on Wednesday.
The Pioneers reached their second straight NEC Tournament in 2017, clinching the berth with a win on the final day of the regular season to finish 4-3 in the league. SHU was 6-11 overall last season, with a 4-5 record at Campus Field.
SHU returns three of its top five scorers from a year ago, but will have to adjust to life without do-it-all midfielder Caitlin Delaney. Delaney led the Pioneers last season with 38 goals, 20 assists, 58 points, 43 groundballs, and 55 caused turnovers as she earned her third consecutive First Team All-NEC honor.
The Pioneers do return its second and third-leading scorers this season in Alyssa Pearce and Averi Farhat. Pearce had 33 goals and nine assists in 2017, eclipsing 100 career points. Farhat had over 20 goals for the third consecutive season, netting 22 tallies and 31 points. She enters her senior season with 67 career goals and 85 career points. SHU will also look for breakout seasons from sophomores Cassie Cesario and Sydney Ericson. Cesario had 18 points last season, adding 25 groundballs and 14 caused turnovers. Ericson had 10 points and 10 groundballs in her rookie year.
The SHU defense will be led by senior Dominique Anselmin, who had a career year in 2017 with 19 groundballs and 21 caused turnovers. She also scored her first career goal. Sophomore Elizabeth Small started 16 of 17 games last season, causing 17 turnovers with 17 groundballs. Olivia Mittleman started seven of the last eight regular season games in 2017, causing 14 total turnovers in 11 games.
Bryant, winners of three of the last four NEC Championships, was the unanimous choice to win the NEC this season. Wagner was picked second, followed by Robert Morris and Mount St. Mary's. Central Connecticut is sixth in the preseason poll with Saint Francis U and LIU Brooklyn rounding it out.
The Pioneers open the 2018 season at New Hampshire on Feb. 10.
2018 NEC Women's Lacrosse Preseason Coaches Poll
1. Bryant (7 First-Place Votes)
3. Robert Morris
4. Mount St. Mary's
5. Sacred Heart
6. Central Connecticut
7. Saint Francis U
8. LIU Brooklyn