CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Coming off a season in which it won its first-ever America East Championship, University of Hartford is the unanimous preseason choice of the league’s men’s lacrosse coaches to claim the league title again in 2012, it was announced by the league office Thursday afternoon. The Hawks, which posted as many wins last season (11) as it had in its previous five years combined, received all five possible first-place votes (coaches could not vote for their own team) and the maximum total of 25 points.
Stony Brook University, last season’s regular-season champion, received the other first-place tally and came in second with 20 points. University at Albany accumulated 17 points and was third, just three points shy of the Seawolves. Just one point separated the remaining three schools as UMBC (10 points) was fourth while Binghamton University (9) and University of Vermont (9) tied for fifth and rounded out the poll.
The top four teams in the conference standings will qualify for the 2012 America East Championship. The tournament semifinals will take place Wednesday, May 2 at the higher seeds and a champion will be crowned on Saturday, May 5 at the highest remaining seed on ESPN3 at 3 p.m. with subsequent airings on ESPNU. The conference champion will receive an automatic bid to the NCAA Men’s Lacrosse Championship, where an America East team has advanced to the quarterfinals three times since 2007.
Hartford (11-7 overall, 3-2 America East in 2011) brings back 30 letterwinners from last season’s America East championship-winning squad that finished the year ranked 19th nationally. The returnees include more than 88 percent of the Hawks’ scoring output from a team that ranked second in the league averaging 10.1 goals per game. Senior Carter Bender, who earned honorable mention All-America honors last year after ranking third among league leaders in scoring (53 points – 35 goals, 18 assists) is a preseason All-American this year and will pace the Hawks offense along with 2011 all-league attack Aidan Genik (23g). Two-time all-league goalkeeper Scott Bement returns to lead the Hawk defense. He had a 9.38 goals-against average and a .536 save percentage last year. Pete Lawrence leads his squad against Maryland in its 2012 opener on Feb. 18.
Stony Brook (10-4, 5-0) will need to replace 15 players, including former America East Players of the Year and All-Americans Kevin Crowley and Jordan McBride, from last year’s regular-season title team, but first-year head coach Jim Nagle brings in a highly touted class of 11 newcomers. Nagle, who comes to Stony Brook after 11 years at Colgate, will rely on former Ohio State standout Jeff Tundo, who racked up 43 goals and 27 assists in two years for the Buckeyes, to pick up some of the scoring slack. Kyle Moeller, a first-team all-conference choice in 2011, emerged as one of the top players in the league and will lead the Seawolves’ defense. Stony Brook will open its campaign at Fairfield on Feb. 18.
Albany (5-10, 0-5) looks to bounce back in 2012 after missing the conference tournament last year for the first time in its 10 years in America East. The Great Danes will be led by preseason All-American Joe Resetarits (31 goals, 13 assists in 2011) as well as the Thompsons, brothers Lyle, the nation’s top incoming recruit, and Miles (29g), and their cousin Ty (26g). Head coach Scott Marr’s schedule will feature five teams that reached the NCAA tournament last year. The Great Danes open at eighth-ranked Syracuse on Feb. 19.
UMBC (6-7, 3-2) sported one of the younger lineups in America East last year and brings back 25 players, including eight starters from that squad.
Leading the way will be second-team all-conference selections Scott Jones, who had 23 goals last year, and Sam McKelvey. Senior captain Rob Grimm, the team’s leading scorer last year (35 pts. – 17g, 18a), also returns. Don Zimmerman, who has led UMBC to three America East titles and six NCAA appearances in his 18 years at UMBC, leads his team against Robert Morris in its season opener on Feb. 18.
Binghamton (7-8, 3-2) begins its first season under new head coach Scott Nelson. He inherits 25 players from last year’s team, including seven starters. Junior attack Matt Springer is the team’s top returner after ranking third in America East in goals last year (29) and earning second-team all-conference honors. The Bearcats start 2012 against Lafayette on Feb. 25.
Vermont (6-9, 1-4) will play its first season on brand new Virtue Field and hopes to return to the America East Championship for the second time in three years. The Catamounts, whose six wins in 2011 were their most since 2006, welcome back 28 letterwinners, including second-team attack Drew Philie, who racked up 30 goals in 2011. Ryan Curtis’ team kicks off its year at Colgate on Feb. 18.
2012 Men’s Lacrosse Preseason Poll
Rank Team (1st-place votes) Total Points
1. Hartford (5) 25
2. Stony Brook (1) 20
3. Albany 17
4. UMBC 10
T-5. Binghamton 9