BIG EAST Men's Soccer Coaches Make Preseason Picks
PROVIDENCE, R.I. – The University of Connecticut and the University of South Florida have been selected to capture the 2006 BIG EAST men’s soccer regular season divisional titles. For the second straight year, the Huskies were picked to finish the regular season atop the Blue Division, while USF, the 2005 Red Division regular season champions, were chosen to claim its division title. The votes were cast by the league’s head coaches, who were not permitted to vote for their own teams.
Coming off back-to-back league championship titles, Connecticut earned 11 first-place votes and 109 points in the preseason poll. The Huskies had a record of 16-3-2 overall, 7-3-1 in league play and earned their ninth straight NCAA Championship berth. Looking to remain in the national spotlight, Connecticut will be led by 2006 Preseason Defensive Player of the Year Julius James and Preseason All-BIG EAST Team member O’Brian White. James, who was the 2005 BIG EAST Defensive Player of the Year and a NSCAA/adidas All-America Second Team selection, helped the Husky defense hold its opponents to just 0.56 goals per game. The junior was the only unanimous selection on the preseason team. Named the 2005 BIG EAST Rookie of the Year and an all-conference second team honoree, White led the team in scoring with 28 points and was tied for the league lead with six goals.
In 2005, USF made a strong impression in its rookie year in the league. Compiling a record of 13-6-2 overall, and a league-best 9-2-0 mark within the conference, USF made a run for the league championship title, falling in the final game. The Bulls earned nine first-place votes and 106 total points in this year’s preseason poll. Holding a national ranking as high as No. 16, USF advanced to the second round of the 2005 NCAA Tournament before being knocked out on penalty kicks by Virginia. Having lost only one senior, USF returns three Preseason All-BIG EAST Team members: junior Rodrigo Hidalgo and sophomores Jordan Seabrook and Yohance Marshall. The Bulls have the most players of any league school on the preseason team. Rodrigo was a 2005 All-BIG EAST First Team selection, while Seabrook earned second team honors and Marshall made the third team.
Notre Dame was selected to finish second to UConn in the Blue Division after posting records of 12-8-3 overall, 6-4-1 in league play a year ago. The Irish received five first-place votes and 103 total points in the preseason poll. Notre Dame made a run in the 2005 NCAA Championship, dropping a 1-0 decision to Clemson in third round action. Returning to the squad is All-American Greg Dalby and All-BIG EAST First Team pick Ian Etherington, both named to the 2006 Preseason All-BIG EAST Team. Dalby and Etherington, both seniors, will anchor the Irish midfield as Notre Dame looks to return to the national rankings this season.
A close race is expected in the Red Division. St. John’s collected seven first-place votes and 104 points, two shy of USF. The Red Storm are coming off their 14th consecutive NCAA Tournament berth and 10th straight appearance in the Sweet 16, recording a mark of 11-6-5 overall, 6-2-3 in league play. St. John’s reached a national ranking as high as No. 3 during the 2005 season and will rely heavily on 2006 Preseason BIG EAST Goalkeeper of the Year Jason Landers. The junior held a league-best 0.35 goals against average and recorded six shutouts through 11 conference games played and was tabbed with 2005 BIG EAST Goalkeeper of the Year honors.
Seton Hall was voted to finish the season in third place in the BIG EAST Blue Division, having amassed 79 points. SHU will be returning 16 letterwinners, but will have to replace four starters from a team that went 13-4-3 overall, 6-3-2 in conference action in 2005. The program advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the fifth straight time and was consistently ranked in the national polls last season. Providing support up top for the Pirates will be sophomore Eliseo Giusfredi, a 2006 Preseason All-BIG EAST Team member and a 2005 All-BIG EAST Second Team selection. Giusfredi was second in the conference with 11 goals last season. Also named to the preseason team, senior Gordon Kljestan will be a key component to the Pirate defense.
Louisville’s David Guzman and West Virginia’s Andy Wright were also picked to the 2006 Preseason All-BIG EAST Team. Guzman, a solid junior veteran, was an All-BIG EAST First Team member last season, who finished the year with four goals and three assists. Also entering his junior year, Wright will anchor the midfield, while adding to the offensive output of the team.
BIG EAST play begins on September 8 when all 16 schools will face off against conference opponents. As the largest Division I men’s soccer conference in the nation, the 16 teams have to play a schedule that would meet 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 2006 BIG EAST Men's Soccer Championship will feature the top 12 of the league’s 16 teams. 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 Oct. 25 or 26, with the quarterfinals following on Oct. 28 or 29.
Rutgers University will serve as host for the semifinals (Nov. 3) and the championship game (Nov. 5). Selection and seeding are based on regular season conference records. The champion receives the league's automatic bid to the 48-team NCAA Division I Men's Soccer Championship. For the first time the NCAA Men’s and Women’s Soccer Championships will be played in conjunction with each other, moving the men’s championship a week earlier.
College Sports Television (CSTV) will air both semifinal games live. The championship game will be broadcast live on select BIG EAST regional outlets.
2006 BIG EAST Men's Soccer Preseason Poll
(-) - Indicates first place votes
2006 Preseason All-BIG EAST Team
BIG EAST Offensive Player of the Year - Omar Cummings, Sr., F, Cincinnati
BIG EAST Defensive Player of the Year - Julius James, Jr., D, Connecticut
BIG EAST Goalkeeper of the Year - Jason Landers, Jr., GK, St. John's
All-BIG EAST Preseason Team