MASCAC should be a battle

While the newly-created MASCAC still has one more year to go until NCAA tournament eligibility, there’s no shortage of story lines following what could be considered a successful debut for the conference.

Salem State won the initial MASCAC championship in a thrilling 2-1 overtime win over top-seeded Fitchburg State. Overall, the conference was fairly competitive throughout the season, as the top four teams finished within five points of each other.

The MASCAC also made some noise in out-of-conference play, highlighted by Salem State’s 3-0 win over host and then No. 1 St. Norbert. The conference also held its own against some of its former conference mates in the ECAC Northeast.

The top four teams from last season (Fitchburg State, Salem State, Plymouth State and Westfield State) figure to be in the mix again, but look for a rebound season from Massachusetts-Dartmouth. The Corsairs posted their first losing season in coach John Rolli’s 26 years at the helm, and first overall since 1976-77.

“The league is only going to get better,” Fitchburg State coach Dean Fuller said. “Salem is the team to beat and UMass-Dartmouth should rebound and be very tough. Plymouth and Westfield bring back very competitive teams with experience.”

Below is a breakdown of each of the seven MASCAC teams. The teams are listed in predicted order of finish. Click on the team name for a detailed preview.

Salem State
Last Season: 15-8-4, 11-3-4, second; won MASCAC  Championship
2010-2011 Predicted Finish: First
Coaches’ Poll: First

Though they lost four seniors, three transfers and a strong returning core should put Salem State on top again.

Fitchburg State
Last Season: 20-6-1, 14-4, first, lost in MASCAC Championship
2010-2011 Predicted Finish: Second
Coaches’ Poll: Second

Fitchburg returns many of the players who carried the team to first in the conference last season.

Plymouth State
Last Season: 17-9-1, 12-5-1, third, lost in MASCAC semifinals
2010-2011 Predicted Finish: Third
Coaches’ Poll: Third

New coach Craig Russell expects the Panthers to be in the mix at the top of the MASCAC.

Westfield State
Last Season: 13-10-3, 10-5-3, fourth, lost in MASCAC quarterfinals
2010-2011 Predicted Finish: Fourth
Coaches’ Poll: Fourth

If they can keep the penalty minutes down, Westfield State may be able to improve upon last season’s finish.

Last Season: 11-15-1, 5-12-1, fifth, lost in MASCAC quarterfinals
2010-2011 Predicted Finish: Fifth
Coaches Poll: Fifth

A disappointing regular season was salvaged by a strong playoff performance. Whether the Corsairs can use that as momentum this season remains to be seen.

Worcester State
Last Season: 5-18-2, 3-13-2, sixth, lost in MASCAC semifinals
2010-2011 Predicted Finish: Sixth
Coaches Poll: Sixth

With 13 new players, Worcester State expects to improve on its regular-season finish.

Framingham State
Last Season: 2-20-2, 2-15-1, seventh place, no playoffs
2010-2011 Predicted Finish: Seventh
Coaches Poll: Seventh

With the loss of 90 percent of its scoring from last season, Framingham State will need its new players to step up quickly if they are to be in the hunt for the playoffs.