File photo by Christian Gomez

For the second year in a row, Hofstra is well-positioned to dominate the CAA and claim the league crown, bringing back the majority of its formidable core that went 18-2-2 last season. The Pride are ranked No. 17 in the country by the United Soccer Coaches preseason poll, and stand atop the conference landscape entering 2022. But other teams on the rise will look to make the final jump to knock-off the top dogs, including Elon, William & Mary, and Northeastern under new head coach Rich Weinrebe. 

Here is a prediction of how the CAA standings will unfold considering what players remain, who is coming in, and the performance of the teams last season. 

  1. Hofstra

The Pride are losing two All-CAA first team selections from last season, forward Matthew Vowinkel and defender George O’Malley. While they are losing 13 goals from Vowinkel, Hofstra should finish as the CAA’s top goal scorers and top squad for the second season in a row. They are returning four players named to this season’s All-CAA preseason team, including  preseason player of the year senior midfielder Hendrik Hebbeker. Hebbeker, along with the other preseason selections, junior forward Ryan Carmichael, keeper Wessel Speel and sophomore defender Mason Tatafu, should provide an incredible foundation for head coach Richard Nuttall to build around. Over his 33 seasons as coach, Nuttall has built up a record of 308-247-77 and has won five CAA Championships over his last 18 years. 

  1. Northeastern

Aside from the Pride, the Huskies are returning the most talent in the CAA and are also bringing in a handful of transfers to patch some roster holes left behind by graduating players. The team’s relatively young core, headed by junior midfielder and member of last year’s All-CAA first team Federico Tellez, have the talent to challenge Hofstra for a title, and have the bonus of proving the Pride mortal in last year’s 2-1 win in the regular season. If new head coach Rich Weinrebe can unite the squad from the sidelines and if his transfers deliver throughout the season, the Huskies could become one of the top teams in the CAA.

  1. Elon

After struggling to establish themselves as one of the top teams in the conference in the last half-decade, the Phoenix pushed through last season, going 4-2-2 in conference play and making it to the CAA tournament final where they gave up three second half goals to lose 3-2 to Hofstra. This season, Elon is returning the majority of that team that nearly claimed the conference title a year ago. The key players for the squad are senior defenders Kasper Lehm and Jannik Videbaek, both named to the All-CAA preseason team as well as grad transfer goalkeeper Ryan Bilichuk who should be starting between the posts following four seasons at South Carolina. Those three players should make the Phoenix one of the top defensive teams in the conference and give head coach Marc Reeves a winning record in the CAA for the second straight year.

  1. William & Mary

In his 31 seasons with the Tribe program, Chris Norris has been to 16 NCAA tournaments, including four during his 18 years as head coach. In his last four seasons however, Norris has not made it to the finals of the CAA tournament, and his squad hasn’t qualified for the tournament in either of the last two years. This season however, with no significant departures and two players named to the All-CAA preseason team, seniors forward Diba Ndiaye and midfielder Alexander Levengood, Norris’ squad should have what it takes to get back to the CAA postseason.

  1. UNCW

The Seahawks are a rather similar team to the Huskies, as they were one of the best goal scoring teams in the conference last season, lost some of that scoring talent in the offseason, and are bringing in some of the best transfers in the conference. The key losses for head coach Aidan Heaney’s squad are three selections from last season’s All-CAA teams, first-team midfielder Jacob Evans and second-teamers, forward Nicolas Molina and defender Michael Hornsby. UNCW is returning senior goalkeeper and All-CAA second teamer Gabriel Perotta as well as All-Rookie team midfielder Adam Hillis. The team’s lone selection to the preseason All-CAA team this season is senior midfielder Bachir Ndiaye, who looks to take on a bigger role following the departure of Evans and Molina. While the 2022 squad is not as talented as last season’s team, Heaney has an impressive track record with the Seahawks, winning five CAA Coach of the Year awards and five trips to the NCAA tournament over his 21 years in charge.

  1. Drexel 

The Dragons may be losing the most talent from their 2021 squad of any team in the CAA. Head coach Ryan Marchiano will be without the reigning CAA Player of the Year, forward Chris Donovan, who was selected in the MLS Superdraft. Drexel also loses All-CAA third team goalkeeper Cameron Sanders. While there are still talented players on the roster, head coach Ryan Marchiano is faced with quite the challenge in his third season in charge. He will have the help of two preseason All-CAA selections, sophomore defender Youri Senden and graduate midfielder Daniel Nesseler, but even with Donovan, Sanders and those two returnees, the Dragons finished with a regular season record of 8-8-1 and a CA record of 4-3-1 last season. While there is potential in the squad to reach the CAA tournament for the third straight year, it will not be an easy path for Drexel.

  1. Monmouth

Following a season in which they went .500 in the MAAC, the Hawks do not appear to be much of a contender in their first season in the CAA. The majority of last season’s top performers are not returning, losing one member of last season’s All-MAAC first team and two from the All-MAAC second team. There is some leftover talent for head coach Robert McCourt’s 19th season, as senior midfielder and 2021 All-MAAC second teamer Luke McBeth is returning as well as preseason All-CAA honorable mention, senior forward Ben Zakowski. While McCourt once led Monmouth to 11 straight winning seasons, his last six have been a mixed bag, claiming one MAAC title but finishing 6th or lower in the regular season standings each year. A new conference could allow McCourt to eventually find his footing again, but 2022 will not be the Hawks’ year. 

  1. Delaware

While the Blue Hens are coming off a season in which they went 2-12-1 overall and 0-8 in CAA play, new head coach Tommy McMenemy should keep the squad out of last place this season. During his time at the University of Michigan, McMenemy served as associate head coach and recruiting coordinator where he helped bring in a top-20 ranked recruiting class seven times in his nine years at the school. McMenemy’s pedigree, as well as the leftover talent of All-CAA third team selection, senior defender Aron Adasletinsson and 2021 All-Rookie team member, forward Carlos Fernadez, should make Delaware at least more than a pushover in the CAA this season.

  1. Stony Brook

The Seawolves don’t look to be a huge threat in their first season in the CAA following several middling seasons in America East and not a whole lot of returning talent outside of senior forward Jonas Bickus, who was selected to the conference’s preseason team. While entering his 12th season as the team’s head coach, Ryan Anatol does not have the best track record with Stony Brook, failing to make the finals of the America East tournament every season he was in charge and making the semifinals just once.

  1. Charleston

Following a season in which they went 1-6-1 in conference play and were one of just two teams in the CAA to have a losing record, the Cougars do not appear to be a much better team this season. Head coach Keith Wiggans is returning just one player from last season’s All-CAA teams, All-Rookie selection defender Daniel Pereira, and has no players named to this season’s All-CAA preseason team. The Cougars look to finish as one of the bottom two teams in the conference for the fifth straight season.