Steffen Vroom Named Preseason All-BIG EAST
PROVIDENCE, R.I. - The University of Notre Dame and St. John's University are the league's top choices to win the 2009 BIG EAST men's soccer regular-season divisional titles. Both squads won their respective divisional titles in 2008, as Notre Dame held the top spot in the BIG EAST Blue Division, while St. John's captured the Red Division title. The votes were cast by the league's 16 head coaches, who were not permitted to vote for their own teams.
St. John's Joel Gustafsson has been selected as the BIG EAST Preseason Defensive Player of the Year, while Notre Dame's Bright Dike is the Preseason Offensive Player of the Year pick. West Virginia's Zach Johnson is tabbed as the BIG EAST Preseason Goalkeeper of the Year.
St. John's grabs 13 first-place tallies and accumulated 109 points in the poll. STJ won the BIG EAST Red Division with an 8-1-2 mark in conference play last year, its sixth regular-season title. The Red Storm held a 19-3-3 overall record and advanced to their fourth NCAA College Cup in program history. As the No. 3 national seed, the Red Storm fell to eventual national champion Maryland 1-0 in double overtime of the semifinals. The Red Storm led the nation with a school-record 16 shutouts, were a top 10 team nationally since the third week of the season and finished the year ranked No. 4 by the NSCAA.
Gustafsson is the returning BIG EAST Defensive Player of the Year. The senior anchored a defense that allowed just 12 goals on the season. In 11 conference games, Gustafsson and the Red Storm blanked their opponents on eight occasions, allowing only five goals. A unanimous selection to the All-BIG EAST Preseason Team, Gustafsson is joined by teammate and classmate Nelson Becerra, the reigning BIG EAST Midfielder of the Year.
Notre Dame earns 12 first-place votes and totaled 110 points in the preseason poll. Notre Dame won back-to-back BIG EAST regular-season titles for the first time in program history, capturing the Blue Division in 2008 with a 7-2-2 mark. Notre Dame held a 12-7-2 overall record and advanced to its eighth consecutive NCAA appearance. As the No. 12 seed, ND fell in the second round to Northwestern. The Irish were ranked in the national polls all season and sat as high as No. 3 in both the NSCAA and Soccer America rankings.
Dike was the league and overall leader in both points and goals in 2008. The senior forward notched 12 goals and five assists for 29 points. In 11 conference games, Dike led all scorers with 13 points and was tied for first with five goals. One of three Notre Dame All-BIG EAST honorees in 2008, Dike grabbed first-team recognition. A unanimous selection to the 2009 All-BIG EAST Preseason Team, Dike is joined on the team by teammate senior midfielder Michael Thomas, a second-team performer a year ago.
Connecticut is picked second in the Blue Division with 98 points and three first-place votes. The Huskies were 11-5-6 overall in 2008 and posted a 6-3-2 league mark. UConn advanced to its 29th overall and 11th consecutive NCAA Championship. As an unseeded team in the national tournament, the Huskies earned two-straight wins before falling in overtime at Creighton. UConn remained in the national polls all season. A unanimous selection to the All-BIG EAST Preseason Team, senior Toni Stahl will lead the midfield for the Huskies this season.
USF is selected to finish second in the BIG EAST Red Division with 92 points and one first-place vote. USF claimed its first BIG EAST Championship title in 2008 and was seeded eighth in the NCAA Championship. USF advanced to the quarterfinals of the national tournament, falling at top-seeded Wake Forest. The Bulls went undefeated at home with a 10-0-1 record, and were 15-5-3 overall. USF was ranked in the top 25 all season and cracked the top 10 on five different occasions.
Louisville is picked to finish third in the Red Division, grabbing two first-place votes and 91 points. The Cardinals ended the year with an 11-8-2 overall record and a 5-5-1 BIG EAST mark. Louisville made its second consecutive and overall appearance in the NCAA Championship. UofL spent eight weeks during the regular season ranked. Defending BIG EAST Freshman of the Year Colin Rolfe has been selected to the All-BIG EAST Preseason Team. The forward was second on the team in scoring with five goals and third in points with 12.
Georgetown is tabbed to finish third in the BIG EAST Blue Division, as the Hoyas received one first-place vote and 77 total points. The Hoyas compiled an 11-5-3 overall record and were 5-3-3 in conference action. Georgetown was the No. 3 seed in the BIG EAST Championship and advanced to the quarterfinal round. Leading the Hoya defense will be senior Len Coleman, an All-BIG EAST Preseason Team selection. Coleman helped anchor a defense that recorded an 0.82 goals against average and blanked 10 opponents.
DePaul is the fourth-place pick in the Red Division. The Blue Demons returned to the BIG EAST Championship semifinals for the second-straight year and were the No. 3 seed out of the Red Division with a 5-4-2 record. DePaul ended the year with a 9-7-4 overall mark. Junior Steffen Vroom led DePaul with four goals and two assists for 10 points and is a selection to the All-BIG EAST Preseason Team.
West Virginia is picked to finish fourth in the BIG EAST Blue Division. The Mountaineers ended last season in fifth place with a conference mark of 3-4-4, and an overall record of 5-9-5. West Virginia kept its tournament streak alive, qualifying for league postseason play every year since 2004.
Johnson grabs BIG EAST Goalkeeper of the Year accolades in 2008 and headlines this year's All-BIG EAST Preseason Team. The redshirt-junior started all 19 games, while recording eight shutouts a year ago. Johnson held a goals against average of 0.64, allowing 13 goals in 1814 minutes played. In 11 league games, Johnson recorded five shutouts, allowed six goals and had a 0.50 goals against average. He was a 2008 All-BIG EAST First Team member.
Also named to the All-BIG EAST Preseason Team is senior forward Hansen Woodruff of Syracuse. Woodruff is a two-time All-BIG EAST Second Team selection and ended the 2008 season with 10 points. Seton Hall junior midfielder Brayan Martinez also earns a spot on the preseason team. Martinez was an All-BIG EAST First Team selection a year ago after completing the season with 11 points.
BIG EAST play begins on Sept. 18 when all 16 league schools are in action. As the largest Division I men's soccer conference in the nation, the 16 teams play a round-robin rotational 11-game schedule within two divisions of eight teams. Each team plays seven opponents within its division and four opponents from the other division.
The 2009 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 first-round byes 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. 5, with the quarterfinals following on Nov. 8.
West Virginia University will host the men's soccer championship for the first time. The semifinals are Nov. 13 and the title game is Nov. 15. The champion receives the league's automatic bid to the 48-team NCAA Division I Men's Soccer Championship.
CBS College Sports Network will air both semifinal games live. The championship game will be broadcast on select BIG EAST regional television outlets and CBS C.
2009 BIG EAST Men's Soccer Preseason Awards & Coaches' Poll
BIG EAST Preseason Defensive Player of the Year: Joel Gustafsson, St. John's, Sr., D
BIG EAST Preseason Goalkeeper of the Year: Zach Johnson, West Virginia, Jr.
All-BIG EAST Preseason Team
BIG EAST Men's Soccer Preseason Coaches' Poll
(-) - Indicates first place votes