BIG EAST Coaches Cast Votes on Preseason Favorites
PROVIDENCE, R.I. - The BIG EAST defending volleyball champion Louisville Cardinals are again the team to beat in 2009 as they were selected as the top team in the Preseason Coaches' Poll. The Cardinals tallied 186 points including six first-place votes, edging out Notre Dame and Cincinnati who tied for second with 178 points each. The coaches were not permitted to vote for their own teams.
Louisville (19-11, 11-3), who took the BIG EAST crown a season ago as the No. 3 seed, boasts two unanimous All-BIG EAST Preseason Team selections in seniors Lecia Brown and Justine Landi. Head coach Leonid Yelin and the Cardinals received an automatic bid to the NCAA Championship a season ago, but were topped by No. 10 Purdue in five sets (25-22, 21-25, 29-27, 23-25, 16-14).
This is the third time Louisville has been selected as preseason favorite in the conference, and the second-straight season. The Cards also were picked to finish first in 2005, the team's first year competing in the BIG EAST.
Senior Christina Kaelin and junior Kellie Sciacca were both All-BIG EAST Selections for Notre Dame (17-14, 9-5). The Irish came in second with five first-place votes. The Fighting Irish made it to the conference championship game last year as the No. 5 seed, but could not get past Louisville. Head coach Debbi Brown and Notre Dame look to make a return trip to the final this season and capture its first title since 2005.
Cincinnati (27-7, 12-2) received four first-place votes and tied with Notre Dame for second overall in total points. Reed Sunahara, the reigning BIG EAST Coach of the Year, looks to lead the Bearcats back to the top of the conference as UC earned a share of the regular-season title last season. Junior Stephanie Niemer was one of four unanimous selections this year and is joined by classmate Annie Fesl.
The fourth unanimous selection on the All-BIG EAST Preseason Team also was tabbed as the BIG EAST Preseason Player of the Year. USF's (17-14, 7-7) Marcela Gurgel led the conference in kills (486) and service aces (72) last year and also was an undisputed selection on the 2008 All-BIG EAST First Team. The Bulls, who were picked to finish fourth in the preseason poll with 154 points, will look to its senior leader to help the squad to its first finals appearance since joining the conference.
St. John's (22-9, 12-2) who shared the regular-season title with Cincinnati last season was picked to finish fifth with 144 total points. The Red Storm will be without the 2008 BIG EAST Player of the Year Wioleta Leszczynska and the Libero of the Year Lena Yee, who have departed due to graduation, but will look to head coach Joanne Persico, the BIG EAST Coach of the Year in 2007.
The volleyball season starts on Aug. 28 with every team playing in fall tournaments. BIG EAST play begins with a 14-game opening weekend on Sept. 25-27. The BIG EAST's 15 volleyball teams play every league school once for a 14-game schedule. The top eight finishers in the BIG EAST standings based on winning percentage advance to the BIG EAST Volleyball Championship hosted by Louisville at the Kentucky International Convention Center.
First-round action of the BIG EAST Volleyball Championship will begin on Nov. 20. The event spans three days and is single elimination. ESPNU will televise the championship game on Nov. 22 at 2:00 p.m. (CST). The tournament champion receives the league's automatic bid to the NCAA's 29th Annual Division I Women's Volleyball Championship.
2009 BIG EAST Volleyball Preseason Awards and Coaches Poll
BIG EAST Preseason Player of the Year
All-BIG EAST Preseason Team
BIG EAST Preseason Coaches' Poll