WINTHROP, Mass. – Saint Joseph's College of Maine 15th-year head coach Rupert Lewis and his Monks program have received all nine first-place votes to unanimously take the top spot in the 2019 Great Northeast Athletic Conference Field Hockey Preseason Poll, as announced on Tuesday morning.
SJC garnered the maximum 81 points overall, ahead of second-place Lasell University, which collected 72 points. The poll voting is conducted by the league's head coaches.
Saint Joseph's graduated an important group of seniors last spring - including two-time GNAC Goalkeeper of the Year Megan Baker and three-time All-Conference defender Arianna Kahler - but has a host of talent returning. The Monks' top three scorers - senior Libby Pomerleau (Limerick, Maine), sophomore Emma Rutledge (Alfred, Maine) and junior Allie Belaire (Greene, Maine), a trio that combined to net 50 goals and 131 total points in 2018 - are back, as is All-Conference defender Kylee Veilleux (Sabattus, Maine).
The 2018 team set new SJC single-season records for wins, goals (95), assists (76), points (266), shots (487), shutouts (13), and goals-against average (0.66) and finished the year as the NCAA DIII leader in assists per game (3.57), penalty corners per game (14.10), points per game (12.62), and scoring margin (3.81). St Joe's also ranked third in the country in goals per game (4.52) and scoring average (4.47), fourth in winning percentage (.905), eighth in save percentage (.841), and ninth in goals-against average (0.66).
The 2019 campaign will mark the sixth season in which the GNAC has sponsored the sport of field hockey, with the Monks capturing each of the last three GNAC Championships and NCAA Division III Tournament automatic qualifying berths. Last year, St. Joe's blanked Lasell, 4-0, in the conference title game before falling to regional powerhouse Endicott, 3-1, in NCAA play.
Following Lasell, Colby-Sawyer College finished in third place with 57 points, just narrowly ahead of Simmons University's 56 points. Colby-Sawyer fell to Lasell in last season's GNAC Semifinals in the Chargers' first year in the league, while Simmons also advanced to the semis. The Sharks captured the conference's first two field hockey championships back in 2014 and 2015.
The remainder of the poll was made up by Johnson & Wales University (RI) with 46 points, Anna Maria College with 33 points, Regis College with 32 points, Rivier University with 19 points, and Albertus Magnus College with nine points.
The GNAC featured seven field hockey sponsoring institutions in its inaugural 2014 season. The league size grows to nine in 2019 as Albertus Magnus sponsors the varsity sport as a GNAC member, and it will increase to 11 teams in 2020 with the University of Saint Joseph (CT) adding the program next fall and Dean College joining the GNAC as a full core member institution.
2019 GNAC Field Hockey Preseason Poll
1. Saint Joseph's of Maine (9) - 81
2. Lasell - 72
3. Colby-Sawyer - 57
4. Simmons - 56
5. Johnson & Wales - 46
6. Anna Maria - 33
7. Regis - 32
8. Rivier - 19
9. Albertus Magnus - 9
The Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) is an NCAA Division III association made up of 13 member institutions and over 3,000 student-athletes across the New England region. Founded in 1995, the GNAC annually sponsors and administers 22 championships, while balancing academic integrity, athletic opportunity and community involvement in an effort to enhance the student-athlete experience.
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