February 10, 2012

NEC Coaches Pick Quinnipiac Repeat

from press release

– After winning their first Northeast Conference (NEC) Championship in 2011 Quinnipiac has been selected by the league's coaches to repeat in 2012. The Bobcats received six first place votes, while Robert Morris was voted second. Last year's runners-up Mount St. Mary's was picked third and received two first place votes, while Monmouth, predicted to finish fourth, also recorded a first place vote.

Sacred Heart earned a first-place nod and finished fifth, followed by Bryant in sixth. Central Connecticut was tabbed seventh with Saint Francis (PA) in eighth, while Wagner and Long Island rounded out the ten-team field. After three consecutive trips to the NEC Championship game that ended in heartbreak Quinnipiac (13-5, 8-1 NEC) finally reversed its fate in 2011 by taking home the NEC title in a convincing 15-3 win over Mount St. Mary's. The reigning champions have been picked to return to the top spot in 2012 as long time head coach Danie Caro welcomes back 2011 NEC Player of the Year Marissa Caroleo (North Babylon, NY/North Babylon) and 2011 Tournament MVP Devon Gibney (Hopkinton, MA/Hopkinton). Caroleo, a midfielder, returns for her senior season after notching 53 goals and 10 assists as a junior while collecting 37 ground balls and 39 draw controls. The North Babylon, NY native posted at least two points in every game during the regular season and totaled six markers on three different occasions, which tied the NEC record. She finished the season averaging 3.50 points per game, which ranked her second in the league.

Gibney, a senior and two-time member of the All-NEC first-team, will look to pick up right where she left off in 2011, when she recorded 38 goals and 15 assists. The midfielder also proved to be critical on the circle where she led the team with 47 draw controls. The Bobcats also return second team All-NEC goalkeeper Noelle Martello (Westbury, NY/Carle Place). The senior averaged 9.67 saves per-game and a league leading .510 save percentage in 2011, which ranked her 2nd in the nation. Redshirt senior Jennifer Skipper (Centerport, NY/Harborfields) and junior Lianne Toomey (Hickville, NY/Hicksville) both proved to be offensive threats in last year's NEC Tournament as the attackers scored a combined eleven points on the weekend.

Coming off a breakthrough season that featured the program's first appearance in the NEC Tournament and an NEC Coach of the Year nod for fifth year coach Katy Phillips, Robert Morris (8-9, 7-2) will look to build on these experiences in 2012. The Colonials will rely heavily on NEC first-team member Colleen O'Donnell (Portland, OR/St. Mary's Academy), who not only had a eye for the goal, scoring 30 goals to go along with 12 assists as a junior, but held the national standard in caused turnovers, averaging 3.42 per game. Emily VanDyne (Webster, NY/Webster Thomas) will also play a major role for RMU in her sophomore season. After tallying 20 goals and nine assists in her first year, the All-NEC Rookie will be a leader in the attacking end for the Colonials. Rachel Engel (Pittsburg, PA/Upper St. Clair) and Cara Hernandez (New Albany, OH/New Albany) will also be threats in the attacking end after scoring a combined 50 points in 2011, while sophomore MacKenzie Lawler (Okemos, MI/Okemos) brings experience to the midfield after starting in 15-of-16 games as a freshman.

After taking a trip to the NEC championship game in 2011, Mount St. Mary's (8-11, 6-3) hopes to take the experience gained in the tournament and make a run at the title under second year coach B.J. Johnson. Despite losing two-time NEC Defender of the Year Aly Jost to graduation the Mount welcomes back the offense duo of Jen Semler (Baltimore, MD/Perry Hall) and Esther Rufolo (Woodstock, MD/Chapelgate Christian Academy), both All-NEC first team honorees a year ago.Semler posted a team high 38 goals and 15 assists in 2011, highlighted by five hat tricks against league competition, while Rufolo, a two-time all-NEC selection, posted 35 goals and six assists. Rufolo will also be a threat on the circle after recording 52 draw controls in 2011 which ranked her fourth in the league. Underclassman will also play a major role for the Mount this spring as All-Rookie team member Kaitlyn Larrimore (Pylesville, MD/North Hartford) comes off a 18-point freshman campaign, while fellow sophomore Gabe Little (Hampsted, MD/North Carroll) will pick up the slack defensively after tallying a team-high 17 caused turnovers and 29 ground balls in 2011.

Narrowly missing out on last year's NEC playoff after coming up on the short end of a tiebreak could be the motivation Monmouth (10-7, 5-4) needs to capture its fourth NEC title. Under third year coach Denise Wescott, the Hawks return a solid midfield and attacking unit featuring Gianna D'Urso (Fairfield, CT/West Essex),a member of the 2010 All-Rookie and 2011 All-NEC second team. The junior midfielder notched 20 caused turnovers in 2011 and corralled 24 ground balls while contributing to a defense that boosted a league best 9.35 goals against average. On the attacking end, senior Sam Lillo (Short Hills, NJ/Millburn) and junior Molly O'Brien (Kennett Square, PA/Unionville) will lead the way after 29 and 31 goal seasons, respectively, in 2011. Lillo will also be a force to be reckoned with on the circle after she led the team with 34 draw controls. O'Brien's 31 goals ranked second on the team.

After bowing out in the semis to the eventual NEC champions last May, Sacred Heart (6-11, 5-4) will look to reclaim the title they held from 2008-10. With head coach Laura Cook at the helm for her 13th season the Pioneers will look to rebound to the top of the league behind the likes of two-time NEC Rookie of the Week and NEC All-Rookie pick Kelsey Russo (Lindenhurst, NY/Lindenhurst), and All-NEC first team selection Emily Pepe (Esast Quogue, NY/Westhampton (Jacksonville U)). Russo led all NEC freshmen with 32 goals, 11 of which came off free positions, while Pepe served as the teams play maker, generating a squad best 27 assists, which ranked her third in the league. Kate Kmiotek (Farmingville, NY/Sachem East) will be a two-way threat for the Pioneers in her senior season after she gathered 31 ground balls and 21 caused turnovers in 2011 while leading the team with 58 points. The Long Island native, who has been named to the All-NEC second team twice and the first team once, also made a statement on the circle as she nabbed 28 draw controls.

Bryant (8-8, 7-2) and head coach Karen Healy boasted the 2011 NEC Rookie of the Year in Haley Bloom (Hauppauge, NY/St. Anthony's) as well as a terrific freshman class. In 2011 Bloom and her classmates accounted for 62% of Bryant's goals scored and 61% of the team's scoring. Bloom alone accounted five hat tricks en-route to notching 41 points (27 goals, 14 assists). Defensively the Bulldogs tout reigning NEC Goalie of the Year Lauren Filippone (West Babylon, NY/West Babylon), who ranked sixth nationally in save percentage (49.8%), and tenth in saves per game (10.0) and ground balls per game (3.0). Nicole Rettinger (Dix Hills, NY/Half Hollow Hills West),a 2010 NEC All-Rookie selection, will also play a critical role in the Bulldog defense after earning second team All Conference honors as a sophomore. She recorded a team-high 27 caused turnovers and 23 ground balls in 2011 to average 1.69 per game, ranking her third-best in the league.

Central Connecticut State (7-9, 2-7) will look to make some noise in the NEC under new coach Kelly Nangle. Nangle is no stranger to the NEC as she was a four-time All-Conference selection for Mount St. Mary's where she currently ranks among the program's top-10 all-time in ground balls, caused turnovers and draw controls. The Blue Devils, who won a program-best seven games in 2011, return second team All-Conference and 2010 NEC Rookie of the Year Betsey Vendel (Sandy Hook, CT/Newtown), who led the league with 3.75 points per game while ranking second in assists with 1.24 per game. The Connecticut native totaled a team-high 60 points (31 goals and 29 assists) in 2011 and will also look to add onto the Blue Devil career assists record, which she shattered during her sophomore season. Defensively, CCSU will look to senior goalkeeper Erin DeLancey (Saratoga Springs, NY/Saratoga Springs),who brings a wealth of experience to the field as well as a 10.81 saves per game average and 3.19 ground balls per game average.

Saint Francis (PA) (5-12, 1-8) returns its top three offensive producers from 2011, as the Red Flash look to crack the NEC's top tier in 2012 under first year head coach Gregg Gebhard. Senior and second team All-Conference selection Kate Simmons (Delran, NJ/Delran) will be leading the charge for the Flash after she finished the season first in the league with 3.53 draws per game while putting up a team-high 57 points. Danielle Conwell (Succasunna, NJ/Roxbury), a junior,and senior Catherine Helming (Canandaigua, NY/Canandaigua) will add offensive ammunition, finishing as the second and third high scorers, respectively, in 2011.

Wagner (4-12, 3-6) under fourth year head coach Cristina Curiale, will look to make an impact as the Seahawks return their top three offensive producers in Carolyn Clark (Syracuse, NY/West Hill), Lauren Petrik (Syracuse, NY/Baldwinsville) and Sam Morin (Rockville Centre, NY/South Side). Clark, a senior and the team's leading scorer, posted 29 goals and eight assists in 2011 while Petrik dished out 24 helpers and 11 goals. In addition to her 20 goals, Morin also brings experience after playing in every game of her freshman campaign. Casey Lindine (Easton, CT/Joel Barlow) will look to be a spark on defense in her senior season after she racked up 22 ground balls and 12 caused turnovers as a junior.

Looking to climb the ladder this season under fourth-year coach Heather Levins will be the Blackbirds of LIU Brooklyn (1-8, 1-15). With a roster that sports just three upperclassman, the Blackbirds will rely heavily on the underclassmen including NEC All-Rookie team member Katie Williams (Charlottesville, VA/Albemarle), who made an impact at both ends of the field in her first year. The freshman midfielder started in every game in 2011 and was second on the team in scoring as she posted 22 goals and five assists for a .702 shoot percentage. She also tallied 29 ground balls, collected 27 draw controls and created 13 caused turnovers. Kimberly Kovar (Bethpage, NY/Plainedge) and Shakoya Smith (Baldwin, NY/Baldwin) will also look to build on solid freshman campaigns.

The NEC Women's Lacrosse championship will be held at the institution of the highest-seed over the weekend of April 27-29.

2012 Northeast Conference Women's Lacrosse Preseason Coaches' Poll

1. Quinnipiac (6)
2. Robert Morris
3. Mount St. Mary's (2)
4. Monmouth (1)
5. Sacred Heart (1)
6. Bryant
7. Central Connecticut State
8. Saint Francis (PA)
9. Wagner
10. LIU Brooklyn

First place votes in parentheses

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