NORTH ADAMS -- A successful season for the MCLA soccer teams will mean surprising the other teams in the Massachusetts State College Athletic Conference.
The men come into the season as the preseason No. 8 pick in the eight-team league. The women are the preseason No. 6 selection.
"We want to prove them all wrong," MCLA senior midfielder Drew Webster said. "We did lose a lot of seniors and we have a lot of new guys coming in. We have a good core back that we can definitely build around. Everybody's coming together."
Coach Deb Raber's Trailblazers finished sixth last year and are picked to finish sixth again this season.
"I see this group of women surprising people," said Raber. "In the past, they've expected us to be around the 5-6-7 area of the conference. I don't see that this year."
Salem State is the coaches' pick to be the men's champion. The Vikings had 58 points and four first-place votes in the coaches' poll. Westfield had 53 points and three first-place votes.
Westfield is the unanimous women's pick. The Owls had all eight first-place votes. Worcester State is second.
Westfield is coached by Todd Ditmar, the son of Pittsfield native and former New York Yankees pitcher Art Ditmar.
In 2012, the Trailblazers (5-10, 1-6 in MASCAC) actually outscored the opposition 23-21, but in conference play, were outscored 12-4.
Offensively, it's going to be a rebuilding season for MCLA. The school graduated second-team All-MASCAC pick Jake McCall, who led the team with seven goals and 16 total points.
The top returning scorer is junior forward Ben Souza, who had two goals a year ago. Souza and Tedd Cecchetelli are two guys the Trailblazers are counting on to be atop the goal-scoring list. For Cecchetelli, who will have the offense run through him, it's a return to the pitch after spending last year rehabilitating following surgery on both of his knees.
There are 10 freshmen on the roster and Hildabrand said four or five could see significant time. The senior said he is looking to help lead the younger players.
"I've been through a lot since I've been here," Cecchetelli said. "Having freshmen becoming a part of the team is probably one of the best experiences I've had. As a leader, I'm trying to make sure they're all on the same page."
Two freshmen, Romeo Gray from Mashpee and Dylan Pereira from Ludlow, are two of the newcomers Hildabrand is looking to for scoring.
The Trailblazers look to replace Dillon Wager with either senior Shawn Willis or junior Matt Robinson. Hildabrand said picking one is a work in progress, but one he'd like to have finalized before the Trailblazers jump into league play.
The Trailblazers were 7-11 and 2-5 in MASCAC play, but dropped their final four conference games.
"We're using last year as a reflection. The things we did wrong, how can we fix them, and how can we make them better," midfielder Ashlee Scofield said.
There are six freshmen on the MCLA roster and five sophomores. Scofield said the younger players have adjusted well to what the coaches want.
"They ask so many questions and they're ready to learn," she said. "They're really great with how quickly they're learning."
Everything starts in the back for the Trailblazers, and junior goalkeeper Danielle Heinsohn replaced All-MASCAC star Jen Wehner with an outstanding season of her own. Heinsohn was a first-team All-MASCAC pick in net, and she finished up with a 1.96 goals-against average and had a .817 save percentage.
"Danielle, last year, stepped into those shoes and took it right away," said Raber. "There was no hiccup in the back."
It's the first time in several years that Raber doesn't have a Berkshire County player on her roster. She does have six players from Western Mass. on her side. One of those Pioneer Valley players is freshman Natalie Caney of Belchertown.
Another Western Mass. player, senior Jennifer Ferrari, scored 10 of the 25 goals MCLA netted last year. But Ferrari is the only top scorer returning.
"I think we're going to see goals coming from different people," said Raber. "I don't think it's going to be a one-person goal-scoring show."