Moon Township, Pa. - According to a poll of Northeast Conference (NEC) head coaches, the Robert Morris University field hockey team has been picked to finish fifth in the NEC in 2012.
The Monmouth Hawks, for the first time in NEC history have earned the majority of votes for a first-place ranking. The two-time defending NEC champion Rider Broncs received three votes and were tabbed as second-place finishers.
Following the Hawks and Broncs in the poll are Saint Francis University (Pa.) and Quinnipiac University, who took home one vote.
Robert Morris holds down the fifth place spot. RMU, led by sixth-year head coach Olivia Netzler, will look to continue success after a record-breaking 2011 season. The Colonials earned a program-best eight wins last season. RMU also posted its first-ever win over a nationally ranked team in 2011, topping No. 15 Ohio 1-0. RMU returns three All-NEC Selections, Jamie Hartley (Tamworth, Australia / University of Newcastle), Michelle Lewthwaite (Macarthur, Australia / Westfield Sports) and Erin McKenzie (Lismore, Australia / University of Queensland Tech), all who earned NEC Second Team honors.
In her first season at RMU, Hartley surpassed the program's single-season records with 21 points and eight goals. The midfielder also broke the Colonial single-season assist record - Hartley now ranks third with five assists in 2011. Hartley also set RMU individual season records with 43 shots and 72 shots on goal.
Lewthwaite finished her freshman campaign as a Colonial with 12 points and six assists, which allowed her to finish second in assists during a season by a freshman. Lewthwaite tied for the team lead with two-game winning goals last season including the lone goal in RMU's 1-0 over nationally ranked Ohio University.
McKenzie set a new program record with seven wins in goal for RMU as she completed her first season as a Colonial. The freshman goalkeeper also posted a pair of shutouts for Robert Morris to tie the Colonials' single-season record. Her first career shutout came against No. 15 Ohio as McKenzie stopped all eight shots she faced.
The Colonial field hockey team begins their season at home next Friday, Aug. 24, at 7pm against Villanova. The season opener marks the first time in RMU field hockey history that a night game will be played at Joe Walton Stadium.