HAMDEN, Conn. The Quinnipiac University women's lacrosse team was picked to finish first in the Northeast Conference Preseason Coaches' Poll, the league office today announced. The Bobcats were tri-regular season champions last season after posting a 7-1 mark in conference play and earning the top seed in the NEC Tournament. Quinnipiac received four first-place votes, one more than second-place Monmouth and two spots ahead of defending conference champion Sacred Heart. Mount St. Mary's rounded out the top four teams, all of which made the postseason in 2008.
The Bobcats will return 2008 NEC Player of the Year Tiffany Manzi (Feeding Hills, Mass.) for her senior season. During her junior season, Manzi led Quinnipiac in goals (37), points (49), caused turnovers (30) and draw controls (44) en route to being named to the All-NEC First Team. She was named the Player and Defensive Player of the Week over the course of the season for strong performances against NEC opponents.
Hannah Nelson (Glastonbury, Conn.) enters her junior campaign as the defending NEC Defensive Player of the Year. In 2008, Nelson was the league leader in goals-against average (9.06), while ranking second in the NEC and eighth nationally with a .505 save percentage. The Quinnipiac goalkeeper also ranked second in the league with 3.07 ground balls per game.
Last season's NEC Coach of the Year Danie Caro has announced that 2008 All-NEC Second Team member, Ashley Valentine (Friendship, Md.) will join Manzi as co-captains in 2009. Lyndsey Banach (Syracuse, N.Y.) and Meghan Latonick (Severna Park, Md.) will serve as assistant captains.
"It's very flattering for our program to be recognized by my colleagues with the top spot in the pre-season poll," said Caro. "It will put some pressure on the team, but I expect them to embrace the challenge of living up to their own hype. Our conference is very competitive at the top if you don't bring your A game every single day, you're not going to be the Champion."
The Bobcats begin the season Wednesday, Mar. 4, against UConn. The game is set for a 2:30 p.m. start at the Quinnipiac Field Hockey & Lacrosse Turf Field.