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2015 Conf. Previews: Am. East, A10, A-Sun

Article Written by Travis Clark
Published: August 6, 2015

America East

2014 Conference Honors
Conference Tournament Champion: New Hampshire
Striker of the Year: Chanel Johnson, Hartford               
Midfielder of the Year: Jessy Brown, UMBC
Defender of the Year: Noelle Leon-Palmer, Maine
Goalkeeper of the Year: Claudia Dube-Trempe, Maine
Rookie of the Year: Vivian Vega, Albany
Coaching Staff of the Year: Hartford

Teams (2014 overall, conference record)
Hartford (10-4-5, 5-1-2)
UMBC (12-4-3, 4-2-2)
New Hampshire (8-9-4, 4-2-2)
Albany (7-9-5, 3-2-3)
Maine (4-8-6, 2-1-5)
Binghamton (7-9-3, 3-3-2)
Stony Brook (5-10-2, 2-4-2)
Massachusetts-Lowell (5-13-1, 2-5-1)
Vermont (3-12-2, 1-6-1)

While an NCAA tournament bid eluded them last year, nine starters are back for defending America East regular season champions Hartford. The loss of Chanel Johnson’s goal output is sure to hurt, but offensive contributors like Sidney Spremullo Elise Galipo and Aalyiah Ingram are back. Also providing a boost will be the return of 2014 co-Midfielder of the Year Stephanie Santos, who missed the 2014 season with an injury.

vivian vega albany college soccerAlbany's Vivian Vega

The past two seasons, UMBC has transformed itself into an America East contender. Keeping pace with the high standards could be tricky after the team lost its top two scorers from 2014, as both Jessy Brown and Lily Rydon graduated. Head coach Leslie Wray has compiled a 25-10-5 record in the past two years and will look to keep rolling despite the need to replace scoring talent.

MORE COLLEGE PREVIEWS

An overall record under .500 didn’t deter New Hampshire in the postseason, as the team battled its way to an NCAA tourney bid by virtue of the conference tournament title. Goalkeeper Mimi Borkan is back after making 102 saves a year ago, while the team’s leading scorer, Brooke Murphy, will be key in her sophomore season.

Looking to climb into contention, Albany, Maine and Binghamton bring back big-time talent. Rising Albany sophomore Vivian Vega enjoyed a breakout season in her first year in college soccer, earning First Team All-Conference honors. Meanwhile, Maine’s sturdy spine is back and could thrust the Blackbears into contention, as midfielder Charlene Achille, defender Noelle Leon-Palmer amd goalkeeper Claudia Dube-Trempe return.

Atlantic 10

2014 Conference Honors
Conference Tournament Champion: Dayton
Coach of the Year: Paul Royal, La Salle
Offensive Player of the Year: Kelsey Haycook, La Salle
Midfielder of the Year: Nicole Waters, Dayton
Defensive Player of the Year: Kerri Aiken, La Salle
Rookie of the Year: Meaghan Carrigan, Richmond

Teams (2014 overall, conference record)
La Salle (14-6-2, 8-0)
VCU (10-5-5, 5-1-2)
Dayton (12-9-2, 5-2-1)
Rhode Island (12-5-2, 4-3-1)
George Washington (12-6-1, 4-3-1)
Saint Joseph's (11-9, 4-4)
Richmond (9-9-2, 3-3-2)
Massachusetts (5-9-5, 3-3-2)
Saint Louis (8-10, 3-5)
George Mason (4-11-2, 2-4-2)
Fordham (8-9-1, 2-5-1)
Duquesne (5-10-3, 2-5-1)
Davidson (5-12-2, 2-5-1)
St. Bonaventure (7-11-1, 2-6)

A behemoth of a conference at 14 teams, the Atlantic 10 has seen two programs separate itself from the pack over the past few years. Since 2009, La Salle or Dayton has lifted the conference tournament title, with both featuring regularly in the NCAA tournament during that run.

dayton's ashley campbell college soccerDayton's Ashley Campbell

Of the two, the Explorers face the bigger task of reloading after the loss of dynamic attacker Kelsey Haycook, who scored 20 goals last season, goalkeeper Jessica Wiggins and Kerri Aiken, both First Team All-Conference honorees. Paige McDowell is back to anchor the back line, as La Salle’s defense should maintain its stingy level while looking for goals from other sources, with Jess Kagan and Kristin Haugstad the leading candidates.

Meanwhile, Nicole Waters and Ashley Campbell are both seniors for the Flyers after combining for 24 goals and 24 assists in 2014. The goals should be there for the taking, but defensive improvement is necessary after conceding 42 goals during last year’s success if the Flyers are going to reign supreme in the regular season.

Looking to jump into the A10 title consideration, the graduation of Maren Johansen and her eight goals is the main hole to fill in the final third for VCU. One of the team’s key strengths could be goalkeeper Emma Kruse, who nabbed Second Team All-Conference honors and provides crucial experience in goal.

Rhode Island, George Washington and Saint Joseph's all put together winning campaigns in 2014 and will look to push themselves closer to the top of the regular season standings. One of the more notable names is Saint Joe’s midfielder Emily Gingrich, who scored 14 of her team’s 23 goals last season. 

Richmond can’t be counted either. The Spiders return six of their nine goal scorers, including forward Meaghan Carrigan, who scored 14 goals in 20 games in 2014. She’s not alone up front either, as senior forward Ashley Riefner also returns, with defender Dana Bernetich looks to lock things down at the back.

Atlantic Sun

2014 Conference Honors
Player of the Year: Tabby Tindell, Florida Gulf Coast(w)
Defensive Player of the Year: Emma Blackwell, Florida Gulf Coast(w)
Goalkeeper of the Year: Anna Buhigas, Lipscomb
Freshman of the Year: Macy Hamblin, Northern Kentucky
Coach of the Year: Jim Blankenship, Florida Gulf Coast(w) 

Teams (2014 overall, conference record)
Florida Gulf Coast(w) (17-4, 7-0)
Lipscomb (10-7-2, 4-2-1)
Jacksonville (10-8-1, 4-3)
North Florida (5-12-1, 3-3-1)
Kennesaw State (8-11-1, 3-4)
Stetson (5-12-1, 2-5)
USC Upstate (3-13-1, 0-6-1)
NJIT (3-13-2)*

*Independent team in 2014

Can anyone wrest the Atlantic Sun crown from Florida Gulf Coast(w)? On the back of five consecutive regular season titles, the team has three NCAA tournament appearances in the last four years and enters this year as clear A-Sun favorites until another program can knock the Eagles off their perch. Scoring ace Tabby Tindell is back for her third season in Ft. Myers, though she’ll need to find a new assist source after the graduation of Shannen Wacker and her 15 helpers. 

Lipscomb checked in at second place a year ago and returns a lot of its heavy hitters, including midfielder Jade Abarca, goalkeeper Anna Buhigas and defender Carolyn Springsteen, all three who landed on an A-Sun All-Conference Team. Jacksonville wasn’t too far off, but graduated three of its five players on a conference team. Kennesaw State charged all the way to the conference tournament final, and brings back six starters and 13 players overall.

The conference did change overall, as Northern Kentucky bolted for the Horizon League, and the A-Sun NJIT joined in its wake. But it’s going to matter little if Tindell and FCGU hit the ground running once again.

 
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