Aug. 14, 2008
Fairfield, CT - The Sacred Heart men's soccer team was ranked third in the Northeast Conference preseason coaches' poll, released Thursday by the league office. Monmouth was named the preseason favorite while defending champion Central Connecticut was picked second, just ahead of SHU.
Quinnipiac was fourth in the poll, followed by Saint Francis (PA) in fifth. Both the Bobcats and Red Flash each earned a lone first place vote. Robert Morris was tabbed sixth, followed by Long Island in seventh and Fairleigh Dickinson in eighth. St. Francis (NY) and Mount St. Mary's round out the poll.
The Pioneers have qualified for NEC Tournament play in two of the last three years, and with the return of all 11 starters, have set their sights on the program's first conference championship. Now in his fourth year at the helm of the Pioneer program, Joe Barroso has engineered a remarkable turnaround in Fairfield. After going winless in league play the year prior to his arrival, the Pioneers have since posted a 13-11-3 record versus NEC rivals, including a best-ever third place finish and school-record ten victories in 2007.
Not only will Barosso field a team long on experience, but one with three returning conference all-stars. Senior defender David Backman (Gothenburg, Sweden) and senior goalkeeper Matthew Jones (Stoke-on-Trent, England) were tabbed to the all-NEC first team a year ago and sparked one of the league's top defensive units. The Pioneers allowed just seven goals in league play as Jones finished tied for second in the conference with seven shutouts and posted a 0.91 goals-against-average. Senior midfielder Luke Gagliardi (North Branford, CT) finished with a goal and an assist en-route to second team all-NEC accolades in 2007. He will be flanked by senior Jason Tessitore (Orange, CT) and sophomore Jesper Fredriksson (Gothenburg, Sweden) who will look to bounce back from an injury-plagued sophomore season.
Gagliardi, Jones and senior Jonatan Allback (Gothenburg, Sweden) will serve as the captains for the Pioneers, who open their season on August 29 at Providence.