FDU, picked in the top-three by nine of the 11 league coaches, solidified the No. 2 spot, followed by Sacred Heart in third. Saint Francis (PA) earned the final first-place vote to take fourth place, while Long Island and Mount St. Mary's rounded out the top-five in a tie for fifth.
Another logjam made up the latter portion of the poll, as Quinnipiac, Robert Morris and St. Francis (NY) all tied for seventh. Central Connecticut State came in at 10th, while third-year member Bryant completed the preseason predictions in 11th.
Quickly becoming one of the premier powers at the Division I level, Monmouth (14-2-4, 6-0-4 NEC) enters the season ranked 27th in the 2011 College Soccer News Top-30 Preseason National Poll, after capturing its second straight NEC tournament title and hosting an NCAA First Round game for the second consecutive year. Under the direction of eighth-year head coach Rob McCourt (87-28-24 record), the Hawks bullied their way through the 2010 season by posting a 14-2-4 record, which included a 6-0-4 mark against NEC competition. Two-time NEC Player of the Year Ryan Kinne orchestrated an offense that averaged 1.80 goals per game by scoring 12 times. But with the All-American lost to graduation, league coaches picked the Hawks to repeat with the likes of several standout veterans on this year's roster, including senior and third team All-American RJ Allen (Old Bridge, NJ / St. Joseph's) as well as classmates Max Hamilton (Medford, NJ / Shawnee) and Anthony Vazquez (Belford, NJ / Middletown North). The veteran trio, representing the NEC on the 2011 Missouri Athletic Club's Hermann Trophy Watch List, helped hold opponents to under a goal per game (0.70) while contributing four goals and eight assists. Additionally, McCourt will have the services of First Team All-NEC midfielder and junior Ryan Clark (Freehold, NJ / Freehold Township) as the Hawks look to continue their reign on the league, compiling a 40-4-12 record against NEC competition over the last six seasons.
Predicted to finish second, Fairleigh Dickinson (9-7-2, 5-3-2 NEC) looks to build off last year's late run in which the Knights went 4-1-2 to wrap up a 9-7-2 campaign. During that seven-game stretch, veteran head coach Seth Roland's squad posted a four-game winning streak to match its longest string of wins since defeating three straight non-conference opponents before opening NEC play with a 2-1 double overtime win over St. Francis (NY). The Knights must replace last season's leading scorer Dominic Reinold, who is playing professionally in Portugal. Roland will now look to sophomores Michael Calderon (San Jose, Costa Rica / CEI) and Jonathan Gonzalez (Bloomfield, NJ / Bloomfield), and junior Karlis Putans (Riga, Latvia / University of Latvia) to spark the attack. Calderon supplied the Knights with two goals and one assist for five points, ranking third on the team, while Gonzalez and Putans netted one goal apiece.
Coming off its first postseason appearance since 2007, third-ranked Sacred Heart (11-6-2, 6-2-2 NEC) reeled off a Division I program-record 11 wins in 2010 before seeing its chance at capturing its first postseason victory fall short in a 2-1 overtime loss to Saint Francis (PA) in the NEC Semifinals. Head coach Joe Barroso and his squad opened the season on a tear, compiling an 8-2-1 record before finishing 11-6-2. The Pioneers netted two or more goals on 10 occasions last season and will look to continue that offensive output in 2011 with a young core returning. NSCAA All-American and NEC Defensive Player of the Year Marcello Castro (Parana, Brazil / Centro Universitario Maringa) posted five goals and two assists in just his second season for SHU. With Castro's play, SHU allowed just seven goals in conference play, two shy of NEC-leader Monmouth, which surrendered five in 10 games. Junior Brian Francolini (Ellington, CT / Ellington), a forward, peppered opposing netminders with a trio of scores and 12 points, while classmate Justin Brewer (Somers, CT / Somers) fell two points shy of Francolini's production, scoring two goals and assisting on three others.
Saint Francis (PA) (11-7-1, 6-3-1 NEC) took the role of underdog and ran with it in 2010, surprising teams after the Red Flash were picked to finish seventh in the preseason by advancing to the NEC Championship game. Despite dropping a 1-0 decision to Monmouth in the final, SFU and head coach Mike Casper put together a remarkable season that saw it bounce back from a pair of sub-.500 campaigns. Two of the team's top-five scorers return in 2011, with senior Kingsley McLeod (Rocky Mount, NC / Rocky Mount) and junior Wayne Tiller (Magnolia, DE / Caesar Rodney) bolstering the attack. McLeod racked up five goals and 12 points, and Tiller posted four scores and nine points. Between the pipes, junior Daniel Valcicak (Herndon, VA / Gonzaga College) turned away 82 shots while earning 10 of Saint Francis' 11 victories.
Improving one spot from its final ranking in 2010, Long Island (7-10-1, 4-5-1 NEC) manufactured a 7-10-1 record last season, including a 4-5-1 mark in NEC action. The Blackbirds, led by 12th-year head coach TJ Kostecky, opened the season with back-to-back non-conference wins before midseason struggles dropped LIU's record to three games below .500. However, conference play saw Kostecky's squad rebound as they went 2-2-1, before winning their last two games of the season by a pair of one-goal margins. Long Island's offense should not miss a beat this season with the return of All-NEC selections Steve Jakubowski (West Deptford, NJ / West Deptford) and Jakeem Johnson (Montclair, NJ / Upper Montclair), the team's top two scorers from a season ago. Jakubowski led the squad in both assists (6) and points (14) while Johnson posted a team-high six goals.
Tying the Blackbirds in this year's poll, Mount St. Mary's (7-10-1, 4-5-1 NEC) also tied LIU in the final rankings in 2010. Head coach Rob Ryerson has reason to be optimistic of the Mount's chances in 2011 as the team returns many of its offensive weapons from a season ago, including Australian-born and three time All-NEC forward Chris Wheeler (Newcastle, Australia / St. Francis Xavier), a junior who led in the league with 13 goals and has 33 for his career. Sophomore defender Alex Ockford (Yardley, PA / Pennsbury) also provided some offensive punch with three goals and two assists.
Despite suffering 11 setbacks in 2010, Quinnipiac (4-11-2, 3-6-1 NEC) remained in every game as eight of those losses came by a single goal. The Bobcats, under the direction of fifth-year head coach Eric Da Costa, a former QU standout himself, produced offense in 10 games and should continue to do so this season with sophomore forward Philip Suprise (Milwaukee, WI / Pius XI) (5 g, 11 pts) returning up front along with junior William Daniels (Bethany, CT / Mount Ida) (3 g, 7 pts).
Robert Morris (9-7-2, 5-3-2 NEC) finished the 2010 season with a 9-7-2 record and tied for fourth in the conference with a 5-3-2 mark, narrowly missing out on a playoff spot. In a season in which RMU surpassed the .500-mark for the first time since 2006, head coach Bill Denniston, in his 15th season, saw several players excel on the pitch including all-region and All-NEC selection Toba Bolaji (Vaughn, Ontario / Maple), a junior who posted a 9-7-2 record with a 1.02 goals against average. NEC Rookie of the Year Daniel Calabretta (Brampton, Ontario / St. Marguerite d'Youville) scored four goals and totaled nine points while leading one of the biggest turnarounds in the league.
Finishing out of the top-five for the first time since 2008, St. Francis (NY) (5-9-3, 3-6-1 NEC) played to a 5-9-3 record last season with a roster dominated by youth. Head coach Tom Giovatto fielded a team highlighted by 11 underclassmen that received valuable experience from the playing time. Junior midfielder Adam Maabdi (Honnecourt Sur Escaut, France / Lycee Paul Duez) ranked second in scoring, netting two goals and recording a team-high six assists, and sophomore forward Gabriel Bagot (Nevers, France) found the back of the net four times to return this season as the team's leading goal scorer.
Central Connecticut State (4-10-3, 1-6-3 NEC) completed the 2010 season with a 1-6-3 conference record and a 4-10-3 mark for the year. The Blue Devils sealed three of those wins in non-conference play, defeating Vermont, Yale and Fordham. After the graduation of three-time All-NEC defender Robert Cavener, longtime head coach Shaun Green will look to senior midfielder Shawn Buchanan (Hartford, CT / Weaver) for leadership this season. The Hartford, CT, native scored twice last season, including the team's first goal in their win over Fordham, 2-1, in OT.
Bryant (4-10-2, 2-6-2 NEC) continued to grow as a Division I program in 2010, compiling a 4-10-2 record. The Bulldogs, led by Seamus Purcell, picked up two non-conference wins and defeated NEC opponents Quinnipiac and Long Island. Junior defender Ryan Stone (Wakefield, RI / South Kingston) ranked second on the team in scoring with three goals.
The 2011 Northeast Conference Men's Soccer Championship will take place on November 11 and 13 at the home of the high seed. The winner will earn the league's automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament.