BIG EAST Men's Soccer Coaches Make Preseason Picks
PROVIDENCE, R.I. – The University of Connecticut and St. John’s University have been chosen to capture the 2007 BIG EAST men’s soccer regular season divisional titles. For the third straight year, the Huskies were picked to claim the Blue Division title, while defending BIG EAST Champion St. John’s was voted to finish atop the Red Division. The votes were cast by the league’s 16 head coaches, who were not permitted to vote for their own teams.
Connecticut earned 10 first-place votes and 105 points in the 2007 preseason poll. The Huskies compiled a record of 10-7-2 overall, and a second-place finish with an 8-2-1 conference mark in the Blue Division last year. UConn made its 12th consecutive appearance in the BIG EAST Championship, and has a league-leading 22 bids overall. For the 10th straight year, the Huskies earned an NCAA Championship berth. Leading Connecticut will be 2007 BIG EAST Preseason Defensive Player of the Year senior Julius James. A two-time BIG EAST Defensive Player of the Year, James was a 2006 M.A.C. Hermann Semifinalist and an NSCAA/adidas All-America First Team selection. Joining James, a unanimous pick, on the All-BIG EAST Preseason Team are a pair of juniors, forward O’Brian White and midfielder Akeem Priestley. Last season, White was an All-BIG EAST First Team honoree, while Priestley was tabbed a second team performer.
After a slow start and a third place finish in the 2006 BIG EAST Red Division, St. John’s made a late run winning seven straight games advancing to the NCAA Championship Second Round. The Red Storm earned nine first-place votes and 105 points in the preseason poll. STJ posted an overall record of 14-6-2 and ended the league season with a 5-4-2 mark. The Red Storm won its seventh BIG EAST Championship title and first since 2001, and made their 15th straight NCAA appearance with the league’s automatic bid. Ending the 2006 season with a ranking of No. 9 by the NSCAA and No. 13 by Soccer America, St. John’s will look to stay in the national spotlight. Named the Preseason Goalkeeper of the Year for the second straight season, senior Jason Landers held a 0.72 goals against average in 22 games played in 2006. Sophomore Ryan Soroka will join Landers on the All-BIG EAST Preseason Team. The forward was named the Most Outstanding Offensive Player of the 2006 BIG EAST Championship after scoring three goals and two assists in the team’s four-game run.
Notre Dame was selected to finish second in the Blue Division in a close race with 102 points and four first-place votes. Owning a 15-6-2 overall record and an 8-3-0 league mark, Notre Dame went the furthest of any BIG EAST squad in the 2006 NCAA Championship, falling to Virginia 3-2 in quarterfinal action. Returning to the field for the Irish is 2006 National and BIG EAST Player of the Year senior Joseph Lapira. The preseason pick as the 2007 BIG EAST Player of the Year, Lapira led the conference in scoring with 22 goals and six assists for 50 overall points, while notching a league-second 25 points on 11 goals and three assists. A unanimous selection to the 2007 All-BIG EAST Preseason Team, Lapira is joined by junior midfielder/back Matt Besler.
After a second-place finish in 2006, Rutgers was picked second in the Red Division with 90 points and one first-place vote. The Scarlet Knights went undefeated in their last nine games, including three draws, and finished the year with a 10-6-3 overall record. RU advanced to the BIG EAST Championship semifinals after completing the regular season with a 6-4-1 mark. After a two-year absence, Rutgers earned a berth to the NCAA Championship for the 17th time in school history.
West Virginia jumped into the national scene in 2006 behind first-year head coach Marlon LeBlanc. WVU is picked to finish third in the Blue Division with 86 points and three first-place votes. The Mountaineers posted a record 15-3-3 overall, 9-0-1 in the Blue Division. West Virginia earned its first BIG EAST regular season title and spent nine consecutive weeks ranked in the national polls, ending the year at No. 17 by the NSCAA and No. 5 by Soccer America. West Virginia went undefeated in 10 of its last 12 games. Leading the charge will be senior midfielder Andy Wright, a preseason pick and a two-time All-BIG EAST honoree.
USF grabbed three first-place votes and 81 points in the preseason poll to be selected third in the Red Division. The Bulls had a fourth-place finish in 2006 after a season plagued with injuries and ended the year with a record of 9-6-4 overall, 4-3-4 in league action. USF returns two All-BIG EAST Third Team performers from a season ago in forward Jordan Seabrook and midfielder Kevon Neaves, a pair of juniors.
An All-BIG EAST First Team selection in 2006, Seton Hall’s Eliseo Giusfredi was picked to the 2007 All-BIG EAST Preseason Team. The forward finished third in league scoring with 17 points on seven goals and three assists. Cincinnati senior Amir Ikner also was chosen to the preseason team after the defenseman helped the Bearcats to the BIG EAST Red Division title in 2006. Ikner was a 2006 All-BIG EAST Second Team selection. Rounding out the Preseason All-BIG EAST Team is Providence senior Ryan Maduro, one of three unanimous selections. The midfielder helped propel the Friars into the BIG EAST semifinals last season and was named to the All-BIG EAST First Team.
BIG EAST action begins on Sept. 13 when Seton Hall travels to St. John’s. Two days later, Georgetown will play at Connecticut, while Notre Dame plays at Marquette. The remaining 10 schools will start their conference schedule beginning on Sept. 21. As the largest Division I men’s soccer conference in the nation, the 16 teams play a schedule that meets the needs of all of the league schools. A round-robin rotational 11-game schedule within two divisions of eight teams make up conference play. Each team plays seven opponents within its division and four opponents from the other division.
The 2007 BIG EAST Men's Soccer Championship will feature the top 12 of the league’s 16 teams. Selection and seeding are based on regular season conference records. The top six teams in each division, seeded by conference point total, qualify for the conference championship. The top two teams in each division earn a first-round bye to the quarterfinals. The first-round and quarterfinal games will be held on the campuses of the higher seeded teams. First round games will be held on Nov. 7, with the quarterfinals following on Nov. 10.
A year ago, the Blue Demons were picked to finish eighth and earned a BIG EAST Championship berth by finishing sixth in the Red Division. DePaul posted a 4-7-0 record in league play and fell to Notre Dame, 2-0, in the first round of the 2006 BIG EAST Championship. During the regular season, the Blue Demons posted victories over top 15-ranked USF and 2007 Red Division favorite St. John's.
The University of Connecticut will serve as host for the semifinals (Nov. 16) and the championship game (Nov. 18). The champion receives the league's automatic bid to the 48-team NCAA Division I Men's Soccer Championship.
College Sports Television (CSTV) will air both semifinal games live. The championship game will be broadcast on CSTV and select BIG EAST regional television outlets.
BIG EAST Men’s Soccer Preseason Coaches’ Poll
(-) - Indicates first place votes
BIG EAST Offensive Player of the Year: Joseph Lapira, Sr., F, Notre Dame
All-BIG EAST Preseason Team