NORTH DARTMOUTH, Mass.—UMass Boston Women's Basketball carries some of the highest expectations in recent years headed into the 2013-14 campaign, as the Beacons were projected to finish in fifth place in the Little East Conference Coaches Preseason Poll, the league announced Thursday afternoon.
The Beacons' fifth-place projection is tied for the highest the Beacons have been picked in the 16-year history of the Preseason Poll. UMass Boston was also picked to finish in fifth before the 2002-03 season and the 2007-08 campaign.
Led by reigning Little East Rookie of the Year Olivia Murphy (Canton, Mass.) and Second Team All-Conference forward Kirsten Morrison (North Reading, Mass.), the Beacons will look to build upon their 2012-13 season in which they finished 14-12 and earned their second straight sixth-place finish in the LEC.
Perennial power University of Southern Maine was picked to finish first in the Little East Conference with four of the eight first-place votes and 59 total votes. The reigning Little East Conference Regular Season and Tournament Champions finished the regular season ranked 8th in Division III, before being upset in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Eastern Connecticut State University was slotted second with three first-place votes and 54 total votes, while UMass Dartmouth took home the final first-place vote and 49 total tallies.
Rhode Island College earned 39 votes to finish just ahead of UMass Boston (31 votes).
Rounding out the poll, Western Connecticut State University (29 votes), Keene State College (18 votes) and Plymouth State University (nine votes) were picked to finish sixth through eighth.
The Beacons 14-12 overall record and 7-6 conference record last year both were both amongst the three best marks in program history, behind only the 2006-07 season (15-11, 8-6) and the 1981-82 campaign (15-6).
This year's Beacons team returns four starters and eight total returners from the 2012-13 squad. In addition to returning two of the top scorers and rebounders in the LEC in Morrison and Murphy, fifth-year head coach Courtney Mattingly also returns two of the top playmakers in the conference in Andrea Suffredini (Milford, Mass.) and Lauren Perra (Taunton, Mass.).
UMass Boston also adds six players that didn't hit the court last season, including seniors Shelby Buck (Greenfield, Ohio) and Elisa Ogawa (Yamanashi, Japan) who both missed last season due to injury. The Beacons freshman class of four all have shown great promise in preseason, with the group displaying a great mix of size, strength and athleticism.
The Beacons open their season Tuesday November 19 at Simmons College at 7 p.m.