Connecticut and Notre Dame Picked as Women's Soccer Favorites
PROVIDENCE, R.I. – The University of Connecticut and the University of Notre Dame have been picked to capture the 2006 BIG EAST women’s soccer regular season division titles. The Huskies were selected to finish first in the American Division, while the Irish were chosen unanimously to claim the National Division title. Both also won their respective division titles last season. The votes were cast by the league’s head coaches, who were not permitted to vote for their own team and players.
Connecticut earned 12 first-place votes and 110 points overall in the preseason poll to take the top spot in the American Division. The Huskies finished the 2005 season 15-5-2 overall, 10-1-0 in conference play. UConn went on to receive its 24th consecutive NCAA Championship bid and finished the `05 campaign ranked in the top 25 in both the Soccer America and NSCAA/adidas polls. Connecticut is led by sophomore midfielder Brittany Taylor, who was a unanimous selection to the 2006 Preseason All-BIG EAST Team. Taylor led the Huskies in goals last season with eight, finishing the year with 17 points en route to All-BIG EAST First Team accolades.
Notre Dame received 15 first-place votes and 113 points to sit atop the National Division in the preseason poll. A season ago, the Irish won the BIG EAST regular season division title as well as the BIG EAST Championship crown. ND (22-3-0 overall/10-1-0 BIG EAST) advanced to the NCAA Championship quarterfinals and finished the season ranked fifth in the final Soccer America Poll and sixth in the NSCAA/adidas poll.
The Irish were the most decorated team when the 2006 preseason honors were announced. Sophomore forward Keri Hanks was named BIG EAST Preseason Offensive Player of the Year, while senior defender Christie Shaner received Preseason Defensive Player of the Year accolades. Hanks, the 2005 BIG EAST Rookie of the Year and an All-BIG EAST First Team performer, was also a semifinalist for the M.A.C. Hermann Trophy a year ago. Hanks finished the season with 71 points on 28 goals and 15 assists. She also had nine goals and 11 assists in league play. One of the anchors of the Notre Dame defense, Shaner received All-BIG EAST Second Team honors in 2005. She helped the Irish defense post 17 shutouts and hold opponents to 0.60 goals per game. Both Hanks and Shaner were among the 11 players selected to the Preseason All-BIG EAST squad, with Hanks being one of only two unanimous choices. In addition to Hanks and Shaner, three other ND players also earned Preseason All-BIG EAST status – sophomore midfielder/forward Brittany Bock, senior midfielder Jen Buczkowski and junior forward Amanda Cinalli.
West Virginia received three first-place vote in the poll and was selected to finish second to Connecticut in the American Division. The Mountaineers finished the 2005 season 12-6-3 overall, 7-2-1 in the BIG EAST, earning an NCAA Championship berth for the sixth consecutive season. WVU was 19th in the season’s final NSCAA/adidas poll and 22nd in the final Soccer America poll. Two Mountaineer standouts, junior forward/midfielder Ashley Banks and sophomore midfielder Amanda Cicchini, were named to the 2006 Preseason All-BIG EAST Team. Both players were all-conference second team selections a season ago.
In the National Division, Rutgers – which received one first-place vote – was selected to finish second behind Notre Dame. In 2005, the Scarlet Knights placed fourth in Division B with a 5-6-0 league mark and finished the season with an overall record of 10-9-2. RU advanced to the BIG EAST Championship Quarterfinals, where the Scarlet Knights fell on penalty kicks to Connecticut.
Marquette was picked to finish third in the American Division in the 2006 preseason poll. MU received one first-place vote in the poll. In their inaugural BIG EAST campaign last season, the Golden Eagles ended the year second in their division with a 9-2-0 league mark. Marquette posted a 19-4-1 final overall record and advanced to the NCAA Sweet 16 for the first time in program history. Head coach Markus Roeders earned 2005 BIG EAST Coach of the Year honors.
Villanova was selected to finish third in the National Division, after placing second in the division last season with a 6-1-3 conference mark. It marked the fewest losses and best winning percentage by the Wildcats ever in the BIG EAST. VU ended the year with a 10-5-4 overall mark. Junior goalkeeper Jillian Loyden was named the 2006 BIG EAST Preseason Goalkeeper of the Year, as well as a first team selection. Loyden recorded four shutouts and a 0.94 goals against average last season in conference action to earn BIG EAST Goalkeeper of the Year and all-conference first team accolades.
Louisville senior forward Jamie Craft was also named to the Preseason All-BIG EAST Team. Craft was a first team all-conference selection a year ago for the Cardinals after registering 25 points on 11 goals and three assists.
BIG EAST play begins on Friday, Sept. 8 when Marquette travels to USF. The BIG EAST is the largest Division I women’s soccer conference in the nation. Its 16 members compete in a round robin rotational 11-game schedule within two divisions of eight utilizing travel partners for cross-over play, and Friday-Sunday scheduling. Each team plays seven opponents within its division and four opponents from the other division.
The 2006 BIG EAST Women's Soccer Championship is a 10-team single-elimination tournament. The top five teams in each division, seeded by Conference point total, qualify for the Conference Championship. The top three teams in each division earn a first-round bye to the quarterfinals. The first round and quarterfinal games are conducted on the campus of the higher seeded teams. First-round games will be held on Thursday, Oct. 26, with the quarterfinals following on Sunday, Oct. 29. The University of Connecticut will serve as host for the semifinals (Nov. 3) and the championship game (Nov. 5). The champion receives the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Division I Women's Soccer Championship.
2006 BIG EAST Women's Soccer Preseason Poll
(-) - Indicates first place votes
2006 BIG EAST PRESEASON AWARD WINNERS
Preseason Offensive Player of the Year - Keri Hanks, So., F, Notre Dame
Preseason Defensive Player of the Year - Christie Shaner, Sr., D, Notre Dame
Preseason Goalkeeper of the Year - Jillian Loyden, Jr., GK, Villanova
2006 PRESEASON ALL-BIG EAST TEAM