MINNEAPOLIS — Last season’s NCAA champion Elmira earned first place in the preseason edition of the USCHO.com Division III Women’s Poll, nabbing ten of eleven possible votes. Elmira loses no one to graduation from a squad that went 26-1-1 on its way to the championship.
The Soaring Eagles will have plenty of competition from within its own conference, the fledgling ECAC West. No. 7 Plattsburgh looks to improve on last year’s 21-4-2 season, and also returns the entire team.
The other first place vote went to Manhattanville, which finished in the No. 2 spot in the rankings. The Valiants, under first-year coach Nicole Kirnan, will try to avenge a 2-1 loss to Elmira in last year’s title game.
Bowdoin, which lost in overtime in the NCAA semifinals last year, was picked third. Tied for fourth was traditional Division III powerhouse Middlebury and upstart Wis.-Stevens Point.
Middlebury is eyeing a return to winning ways which saw the Panthers win AWCHA national titles in 1999-2000 and 2000-2001, before bowing out in the first round of the NCAA Tournament last year.
After a tremendous 26-1-0 rookie campaign last year, Wis.-Stevens Point was left out of the NCAA Tournament due to selection criteria.
Last year’s MIAC champion, Gustavus Adolphus, was selected sixth. The Gusties will try to return to the NCAA Tournament this year, and will try to improve on an already impressive 23-5-2 record.
The first regular-season USCHO.com Poll of the 2002-2003 season will be held on November 4, 2002. The USCHO.com Poll is compiled by U.S. College Hockey Online, and consists of 11 voters, all coaches of Division III programs.