Coming off one of the best seasons in the program’s history, the Long Island University women’s soccer team was picked to finish second in the Northeast Conference in a preseason poll released Wednesday.
The Blackbirds, who went 16-4-1, including 9-0-0 in the NEC, received one first-place vote, but defending champion Central Connecticut State was selected as the preseason favorite to win the league.
Under Tracey Bartholomew, who was named the NEC Coach of the Year last season, the Blackbirds became the first team since 2005 to go undefeated in NEC regular-season play and the team set a school record with 16 victories. LIU had a nine-game win streak snapped with a 1-0 loss to CCSU in the conference title game, but a slew of returnees will attempt to help LIU win its first conference championship since 2006.
Back for the Blackbirds after a superb rookie season is forward Ariana Calderon, who was named both NEC Player and Rookie of the Year after finishing first on her team and fourth in the league in goals (10), points (22) and game-winners (four). Also returning is Kayleigh Morgan, who had nine goals and 21 points as a sophomore and fellow junior Caitlin Meadows, who will anchor the Blackbirds’ midfield after being named second team All-NEC.
With the departure of defensive anchors Kelly O’Connell and first-team All-NEC selection Nicole Allen, others must fill the void of what was an experienced defensive unit that posted 10 shutouts, good for second in the NEC, and a league-best 0.80 goals against average as the Blackbirds allowed just 17 goals all year, second fewest in the NEC.
LIU begins its regular season this Friday at LIU Field against Iona. Kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m.