NORTH DARTMOUTH --UMass Boston was selected to finish sixth in the Little East Conference this season, earning 37 points in the conference preseason coaches' poll, which was released Thursday afternoon.
The Beacons are attempting to earn a spot in the six-team Little East Conference Tournament for the second straight season, after failing to make an appearance in 2009 and 2010.
Two-time defending regular season champion Bridgewater State earned the top spot in the poll for the first time in program history, with 79 points and seven of the nine first place votes. UMass Dartmouth (63 points) and Plymouth State (63 points) finished second and third while Salem State, last season's conference tournament champion, claimed fourth place with 54 points and the remaining two first-place votes.
Southern Maine finished just ahead of UMass Boston with 49 points, while Rhode Island College (25 points), Western Connecticut State (22 points) and Worcester State (18 points) rounded out the poll.
Captains Hieu Nguyen (Dorchester, MA) and Samantha Counts (Bridgewater, MA) will look to lead a Beacons squad that earned their most conference wins in nine years last season in Little East play with three (3-5).
Nguyen had a dominant junior campaign, finishing 12-2 in singles play between fourth and five singles and seven more wins in double play. Her 19 overall wins and 12 singles victories last year both stand amongst the top five best single seasons in Beacons history.
Counts has been a starter ever since she stepped on campus and is on pace to break the all-time mark for career singles matches played. Last season she struggled in number two and three singles play but combined with Nguyen for a 5-4 record in doubles matches.
Head coach Eric Berg has brought in five new faces and several returners from past squads to bolster the already strong roster.
The Beacons first match of 2012 will be Friday, August 31 when the team plays at Johnson State College (VT) at 3:30 p.m.