PAWTUCKET, R.I. –The Castleton University women's soccer team was selected fifth in the Little East Conference (LEC) Preseason Coaches poll, as announced Thursday morning by the conference office.
The Spartans received 35 points to claim the center spot in the nine-team league. Western Connecticut is the preseason favorite after claiming 61 points including six first-place votes. The Colonials enter the season looking for their fifth consecutive conference title. Eastern Connecticut was selected second with 56 points and one first place vote. UMass Boston and Southern Maine each garnered one first-place vote to land the third and fourth place spots with 48 and 36 points, respectively.
UMass Dartmouth (30 points), Keene State (25 points), Plymouth State (22 points), and Rhode Island College (11 points) rounded out the poll.
Castleton finished the 2018 campaign at 7-12-0 (4-4-0 LEC) after earning the six-seed in the LEC Tournament and bowing out to UMass Boston in a tight 1-0 decision in the quarterfinal round. The Spartans return their top-three goal scorers from a year ago in Makenzi Bellando (10 goals), Rylee Nichols (five goals), and Taylor Mann (four goals). The trio accounted for 63% of the squad's scoring in 2018. Bellando earned All-Conference First Team recognition after finishing in a tie for fifth in the LEC in goals and seventh in total points. She notched four game-winning goals and was named the LEC Offensive Player of the Week after scoring the winning tally in back-to-back contests.
Junior goalkeeper Loren Henderson returns after garnering Second Team All-LEC honors in her first full season in 2018. She started all 19 games for the Spartans and finished the campaign with a 1.97 goals-against-average and a .769 save percentage. She posted three shutouts and led all conference goalkeepers in racking up 123 saves on the season.
Joining the Spartan coaching staff as the graduate assistant coach is Kaitie Sanders, who concluded her Castleton career last season with Second Team All-Conference honors as a defender.
Castleton opens its 2019 schedule on Friday, August 30 on the road at Plattsburgh. The Spartans will host their home opener versus Norwich on Sunday, September 1 at 1 p.m.