HAMDEN, Conn. – The Quinnipiac University women’s soccer team was picked to finish fifth in the 2011 Northeast Conference Preseason Coaches’ Poll, as announced by the league on Thursday, Aug. 18. The Bobcats, who finished the 2010 season at 7-7-4 overall (5-2-3 NEC), look to make their third consecutive trip to the NEC tournament, after being eliminated in penalty kicks in last season’s semifinal match-up against Saint Francis (Pa.).
The 2010 NEC tournament champion, Saint Francis (Pa.), was selected first with eight first-place votes, while Monmouth was chosen second with two first-place nods. Long Island, the 2010 NEC regular season champion, was picked third in the poll, while Central Connecticut State received one first-place vote for the fourth slot. Sacred Heart was tabbed sixth, followed by Bryant and Robert Morris in the seventh and eight positions, respectively. Wagner, Mount St. Mary’s and Fairleigh Dickinson rounded out the poll.
Overall, the Bobcats return 16 players from last season and welcome eight newcomers, including five freshmen. Senior Furtuna Velaj (Stamford, Conn.) returns after leading the Bobcats in points (19), goals (7) and assists (5) during the 2010 season. Velaj earned her third All-NEC first team honor last year and was named adidas/NEC Player of the Week twice as a junior. Alongside Velaj are fourth-year seniors Chelsea Smith (Terryville, Conn.), Kristina Del Mistro (East Williston, N.Y.), and goalkeeper Jill Kelley (Simsbury, Conn.). Kelley started in all 18 games and earned a 6-6-4 record for the Bobcats last year, while ranking third in the NEC in saves (84).
Graduate student Kyla Miles (Newtown, Conn.) will lead Quinnipiac from the back, after starting in every game for the Bobcats as a senior. Miles, the 2010 Quinnipiac women’s soccer team’s Players’ Player of the Year and a 2010 NEC All-Tournament selectee, will play beside sophomore defender Beck Kiting (Canberra, Australia), who was named the team’s Young Player of the Year. Kiting received the adidas/NEC Rookie of the Week honor and tallied four points in her first year with the Bobcats. Quinnipiac also returns junior Jillian Strassner (Avon, Conn.), who as a sophomore ranked second on the team with 12 points, five goals and two assists, and was named to the 2010 All-NEC second team.
The Bobcats kick off preseason play with an exhibition game at Massachusetts on Aug. 18 and the 2011 Quinnipiac Women’s Soccer Alumni Game on Aug. 21. The team begins the 2011 season with a home-opener against Army on Aug. 28 at 2 p.m., followed by its first-four games of September on the road. The Bobcats match-up at Canisius on Sept. 2 at 7 p.m. and at Siena on Sept. 4 at 3 p.m., followed by a game at Hartford on Sept. 8 at 7 p.m. and a inter-state contest at Yale on Sept. 13 at 7 p.m.
Quinnipiac will then host non-conference opponents Lehigh and Holy Cross at the Quinnipiac Soccer Field on Sept. 16 at 4 p.m. and Sept. 18 at 2 p.m., respectively. The team travels to play its first NEC contests at Sacred Heart on Sept. 23 and Fairleigh Dickinson on Sept. 30. Both games will be played under the lights at 7 p.m.
Conference play continues with four games to be played in Hamden, Conn. Robert Morris visits Quinnipiac on Oct. 7 at 1 p.m., followed by Saint Francis (Pa.) on Oct. 9 at noon. The Bobcats then host Long Island and Wagner on Oct. 14 at 3 p.m. and Oct. 16 at 12 p.m., respectively.
Quinnipiac takes on Monmouth on Oct. 21 at 4 p.m., followed by games at Mount St Mary’s on Oct. 23 at 3 p.m. and Central Connecticut State on Oct. 28 at 7 p.m. The team will host its last game of the regular season against Bryant on Oct. 30 at 1 p.m.
The 2011 Northeast Conference Semifinal and Championship games will be played on Nov. 4 and 6 at the highest seed.
Northeast Conference 2011 Women's Soccer Preseason
1. Saint Francis (PA) (8)
2. Monmouth (2)
3. Long Island
4. Central Connecticut St. (1)
6. Sacred Heart
8. Robert Morris
10. Mount Saint Mary’s
11. Fairleigh Dickinson
First place votes in parentheses ( ).