WEST CHESTER, Pa. -- The two-time defending national champion West Chester will begin the season ranked No. 1 in the country as the National Field Hockey Coaches' Association released its preseason rankings Tuesday afternoon.

NFHCA PRESEASON POLL
RANK SCHOOL (FIRST PLACE) PTS PREVIOUS
1 West Chester (14) 158 1
2 Shippensburg 135 2
3 Bloomsburg 111 6
See the complete poll here.

West Chester (20-2 in 2012) amassed 158 points and 14 of 16 first-place votes to top the rankings. The Golden Rams are coming off their second consecutive national title, beating UMass-Lowell in the championship game on each occasion. The Red Hawks have flown off to Division I, leaving West Chester as the favorite once again.

It marks the second consecutive year that the Golden Rams begin the year as the top-ranked team in the land. Third-year head coach Amy Cohen returns six starters in the field. They will be responsible for taking some of the pressure off whichever true freshman goalkeeper wins the starting spot in the cage.

The highly competitive Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference was well-represented in the preseason poll. Shippensburg, Bloomsburg and Millersville were Nos. 2-4, respectively, in the poll. Merrimack at No. 5 was the highest-ranked North Region squad. Indiana (Pa.) was slated sixth, LIU-Post seventh and Bentley eighth. East Stroudsburg and Stonehill rounded out the top 10.

Millersville and Stonehill each received one first-place vote in the poll of head coaches.