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Men's Conf. Previews: NEC, Ivy, Patriot

Article Written by Will Parchman
Published: August 18, 2015

Ivy League

2014 Conference Awards

Offensive Player of the Year: Cameron Porter, Princeton
Defensive Player of the Year: Mark Ashby, Harvard
Rookie of the Year: Samuel Brown, Harvard
Coach of the Year: Chad Riley, Dartmouth

Teams (2014 overall, conference record)

Princeton (11-3-3, 5-1-1)
Dartmouth (12-5-2, 5-1-1)
Harvard (11-4-2, 4-1-2)
Cornell (10-6-1, 3-4-0)
Brown (5-6-6, 2-3-2)
Penn (6-9-2, 2-3-2)
Columbia (7-8-1, 2-4-1)
Yale (1-13-3, 0-6-1)

The Ivy League is almost always an upperclassman-heavy league just by virtue of its rigorous academic realities. So the fact that Dartmouth, the league’s NCAA rep last year, loses an enormous chunk of its 12-win team last year isn’t much of a surprise. Forward Alex Adelabu, defender Gabe Hoffman-Johnson, and midfielders Colin Heffron and Stefan Defregger are all gone. The team’s anchor will be keeper Stefan Cleveland, but a new cast led by young faces will determine Dartmouth’s fate this year. The lesson, though, is to never count out a Chad Riley team.

Elsewhere, the story is similar. Princeton’s Cameron Porter was the league’s best player in 2014, and he’s now with the Montreal Impact in MLS. That said, the Tigers might be poised to right a wrong from last year with the return of midfielder Brendan McSherry and defender Josh Miller. There will be some difficult roles to replace, but Princeton is as well-positioned as anyone to return to the NCAA tourney.

Harvard will look to stand in their way. Samuel Brown was the surprise of the conference last year as a metronomic midfielder, and the return of Andrew Wheeler-Omiunu will hopefully cover for the loss of the quality Kyle Henderson. Don’t forget about Mark Ashby either, who returns for his senior season as the conference’s most decorated defender.

Brown should also be tough this season and challenge the top three’s hegemony. Brown’s Jack Gorab anchors a quality midfield, and Tim Whalen is back for a team that has some holes to fill but not an inordinate amount. Cornell might struggle to reach last year’s watermark with a bevy of losses, including its two best defenders in Devin Morgan and Peter Chodas. They’ll have to pick up slack elsewhere.

Penn might be the most intriguing club in the Ivy League. The Quakers lost Duke Lacroix, one of the conference’s best forwards, but they replace him with the more than capable Alec Neumann and bring in perhaps the best class in the league. Former New York Red Bulls Jerel Blades and Gideon Metrikin are both impact freshmen with legitimate designs on the league’s ROY award. Can Penn crawl out of the bottom three this year? Don’t bet against it.

Northeast Conference

2014 Conference Awards

Player of the Year: Neco Brett, Robert Morris
Defensive Player of the Year: Francis de Vries, Saint Francis (PA)
Rookie of the Year: Filosmar Cordiero, Central Connecticut
Coach of the Year: Michael Casper, Saint Francis (PA)

Teams (2014 overall, conference record)

Saint Francis (PA) (13-6-1, 6-1-0)
Bryant (9-5-3, 5-0-2)
St. Francis Brooklyn (11-6-4, 4-1-2)
LIU Brooklyn (5-12-0, 4-3-0)
Robert Morris (7-9-2, 2-4-1)
Fairleigh Dickinson (4-12-2, 2-4-1)
Central Connecticut (5-10-2, 1-5-1)
Sacred Heart (0-16-2, 0-6-1)

It’s a rare enough thing that the NEC lands a player on a preseason MAC Hermann Award watch list, but two? Believe the hype. Robert Morris’s Neco Brett and Saint Francis defender Francis de Vries are both back for anticipated follow-up seasons after breakout years in 2014. For Brett, that means a final swan song as a senior after scoring 15 goals last year. No returning college player in the country had more last season. Robert Morris had trouble surrounding him with enough support last year and finished fifth in the league. What can they do for an encore?

De Vries’ return as a junior may have more far-reaching impact on a conference title race St. Francis Brooklyn won last year in the postseason. Saint Francis looked like the favorites headed into the postseason tournament, but their Brooklyn counterparts surged at just the right time and won the conference tourney title game 2-1. Saint Francis has some pieces to replace, but the return of De Vries, one of the best defenders in all of college soccer, gives them a chance. Don’t overlook the return of Pablo Medina either. He was fourth in the country in assists last year.

Bryant will be in the mix again, but they might have trouble replicating their unbeaten regular season conference run from last season without Connor Norat and the defensive nucleus of Tony Flaim and Shane Murphy. A lot will be asked of senior Brett Larocque in the midfield this season.

LIU Brooklyn had a brutal nonconference season last year, but it straightened out in the league and lost just one game the rest of the way. The team is truly the star in this instance, and a decent chunk of returning players should help LIU Brooklyn to a faster start this year. The loss of Brice Merwine will sting, but there’s enough back, including defender Tanner Sica, to be optimistic for 2015.

Patriot League

2014 Conference Awards

Offensive Player of the Year: Dominique Badji, Boston University
Defensive Player of the Year: Joseph Greenspan, Navy
Goalkeeper of the Year: Winston Boldt, Army
Rookie of the Year: Bjarki Benediktsson, Boston University
Coach of the Year: Neil Roberts, Boston University

Teams (2014 overall, conference record)

Boston University (12-4-4, 6-0-3)
Navy (11-4-5, 6-1-2)
American (11-5-3, 5-2-2)
Lehigh (10-8-1, 5-3-1)
Bucknell (10-10-3, 4-3-2)
Army (7-8-5, 3-4-2)
Loyola (MD) (5-8-4, 2-5-2)
Colgate (6-10-2, 2-6-1)
Holy Cross (5-9-3, 2-6-1)
Lafayette (6-10-2, 2-7-0)

This was a surprisingly deep league in 2014. Need proof? Just ask UCLA, the eventual national runner-up. Early last season, American upset the Bruins 2-1 in a tourney, and they didn’t even finish in the top two in the conference. Boston’s rise last year was impressive after missing the postseason tourney altogether in 2013, but the loss of Dominique Badji, who’s now with the Colorado Rapids, won’t help. The Terriers will be young at a few key spots this year, so the likes of Benediktsson and David Amirani will have to pick up a lot of slack.

Navy and Army were both waylaid by graduation in the offseason when Joseph Greenspan (Navy) and Winston Boldt (Army) both graduated into service. Greenspan was drafted anyway, and now both service academies will look to other players to carry the defensive load. Both, though, are in good stead anyway. Navy has a quality nucleus surrounding senior forward Jamie Dubyoski, including PJ Suess and Jackson Morgan, Boldt’s heir apparent as the conference’s top keeper. Army, too, has a good number of returners. Both should return to the top half again.

Keeping with the theme, American, Lehigh and Bucknell all feature quality returning starters in the midst of a pack that should close the gap on a Boston team that was hit hard by graduation. American has one of the best one-two punches in the league in Liam Robley and Dale Ludwig, while Lehigh’s spine is in good shape with the return of Justin Worley and Jamie Luchini. Bucknell, meanwhile, will feature one of the league’s best midfielders in Chris Thorsheim and an emerging forward in Jesse Klug.

Look out for Loyola in year two of the Steve Nichols project. The former Development Academy coach is in the midst of a building project, and the Greyhounds were a quality side in his first year at the rudder of his alma mater. Colgate, Holy Cross and Lafayette will all in the midst of rebuilding projects and will be looking out for modest gains in 2015.

 
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