The NEC is going to have a different flavor this spring: After losing Quinnipiac and Monmouth -- the Hawks never even played a game in the conference -- to the MAAC, the league flexed its muscles and brought Hobart -- formerly of the crumbling ECAC -- and St. Joseph's -- formerly of THUNDERDOME! -- into the conference's fold. The addition of the two programs to the league are a great fit for the nascent lacrosse-sponsoring conference, and the existences of those two programs are immediately recognizable when looking at the league's preseason poll: The Statesmen and Hawks have carved out notable positions in the NEC's hierarchy.
Northeast Conference men's lacrosse coaches have unanimously picked Bryant to win its third consecutive Northeast Conference title in 2014 as revealed in the 2014 NEC Men's Lacrosse Preseason Coaches' Poll released Monday. The two-time defending tournament champion Bulldogs were picked in six of the seven polls, making them a unanimous selection as coaches were not allowed to vote for their own teams.
Here's how the voting shook out (total points weren't released):
|Probably more second-place votes than third-place votes
|Mount St. Mary's
It's difficult to fully experience the portrait that the NEC's coaches painted for the league in its preseason poll, but there are some understandable aspects to the voting:
- Bryant is the clear favorite in the league, a unanimous selection as the conference's top team entering the (already begun) 2014 season. The Bulldogs' effort against Colgate this past weekend in miserable conditions likely cements Bryant as the unquestioned team to beat in the NEC this spring.
- Robert Morris probably earned more second-place votes than Hobart, but the Statesmen earned Mike Pressler's first-place vote, which drew Hobart square with the Colonials in the finally tally. The race between those teams this season -- likely in their own tier in the conference's hierarchy, capable of potentially snagging the Bulldogs -- is going to be tight and interesting. The Statesmen arguably have more top-line talent than Robert Morris, but the Colonials' style makes them a difficult matchup for the entire league.
- There's no reason to believe that Wagner wasn't voted last on every ballot. That just makes the Seahawks more beautiful.
- It's impossible to determine how the voting for St. Joseph's, Sacred Heart, and Mount St. Mary's played out. There could be noted tiers in that group or it could be a mess. Regardless, that's going to be an important race to watch in the league as it will likely determine which team earns a trip to the conference's postseason tournament.