NOTRE DAME AND WEST VIRGINIA PICKED TO WIN WOMEN'S SOCCER DIVISIONAL TITLES

PROVIDENCE, R.I. - Notre Dame and West Virginia were picked as favorites in the 2011 BIG EAST preseason women's soccer poll. The Irish were unanimously chosen to win the league's National Division, while the Mountaineers had eight first-place votes and sit atop the American Division in the poll. Notre Dame is the defending national champion having won the 2010 NCAA tournament, while West Virginia is the defending league title holder having won the 2010 BIG EAST tournament. The votes were cast by the league's 16 head coaches, who were not permitted to vote for their own teams.
 
Notre Dame totaled 120 points, including 15 first-place votes and has been picked for first in each of the last 16 years dating to 1995, when it joined the BIG EAST. Last year the Irish went 21-2-2 (9-0-2 BIG EAST) and captured its third national championship.
 
Irish senior forward Melissa Henderson has been named BIG EAST Preseason Offensive Player of the Year honors for the third straight season. She also was a unanimous selection becoming the first player since Kerri Hanks in 2007 to accomplish the feat.
 
A 2010 Hermann Trophy award finalist, Henderson also won the Honda Sports Award in women's soccer designating her as the nation's top player. She led the league with 45 points last season, including 17 goals. In 11 league games, she totaled 24 points, including 10 goals.
 
Joining Henderson on the All-BIG EAST Preseason Team is senior teammate Jessica Schuveiller. An anchor of the Notre Dame defense, Shuveiller was named to the College Cup all-tournament team and was cited as the Most Outstanding Defensive Player. The Irish posted a league-best 15 shutouts last year, including five in conference play. Schuveiller also is the BIG EAST Preseason co-Defensive Player of the Year.
 
Headlining the American Division was West Virginia with 110 points. The Mountaineers (18-5-1, 9-1-1 BIG EAST) won their second tournament crown last year and earned the league's automatic berth into the NCAA Championship. Junior Bri Rodriguez is a Preseason All-Conference selection who tallied seven goals last season. West Virginia also returns all four back line starters in 2011. WVU's defense has posted seven shutouts in conference play in each of the past three seasons.
 
Marquette was narrowly picked second in the American Division behind West Virginia with 108 points, including five first-place votes. The Golden Eagles (16-5-3, 11-0-0 BIG EAST) are coming off their first unbeaten and untied conference season in program history and return a pair of Preseason All-Conference picks. BIG EAST Preseason Goalkeeper of the Year Natalie Kulla and BIG EAST Preseason co-Defensive Player of the Year Kerry McBride will anchor the team's backline.
 
Kulla earns the early-season nod as the league's top goalkeeper for the second straight year. Last season the senior held a 0.88 goals-against average and had 10 shutouts, five of which came in conference play. McBride, also a senior, was the league's Defensive Player of the Year last season. McBride help limit opponents to just 4.0 shots on goal per game over 24 contests. The Golden Eagles are led by 2009 and 2010 BIG EAST Coach of the Year Markus Roeders.
 
Connecticut was picked third in the American Division with 98 points, including three first-place votes. USF was picked fourth with 76 points. Both teams participated in last year's NCAA Championship. Bulls senior Chelsea Klotz is a Preseason All-BIG EAST pick. She had 25 points with 11 goals and was a First Team All-BIG EAST pick.
 
Georgetown was tabbed second in the National Division behind Notre Dame totaling 103 points, including one first-place vote. It is the highest Georgetown has ever been picked. The Hoyas (15-7-2, 7-3-1 BIG EAST) are coming off one of their best seasons in school history having totaled a school-record 15 wins. Georgetown earned its second NCAA Championship berth last year, including a run to the NCAA quarterfinals.
 
Seventeen letterwinners, including eight starters return for the Hoyas, including redshirt senior Ingrid Wells. The BIG EAST Midfielder of the Year last season, Wells is an All-BIG EAST Preseason Team selection who totaled 28 points, including nine goals and 10 assists. Senior teammate Kelly D'Ambrisi also is an All-BIG EAST Preseason pick. D'Ambrisi had 12 points, including four goals, last year.
 
Rutgers (10-9-1, 5-5-1 BIG EAST) was picked third in the National Division with 91 points and returns All-BIG EAST Preseason selection Jonelle Filigno. A redshirt sophomore, Filingo started 14 games, and tied for the team lead with 12 points. She missed the last five games of the year with the Canadian National Team for the CONCACAF World Cup Qualifier and also played in the World Cup this past summer in Germany.
 
Louisville was picked fourth in the National Division with 73 points and returns BIG EAST Rookie of the Year Christine Exeter. A sophomore Preseason All-BIG EAST selection, Exeter amassed 16 points, including eight goals, last season and had eight points in league play.
 
Villanova senior forward Katie Ryan also was named to the All-BIG EAST Preseason Team. She had 24 points, including nine goals last season. The Wildcats were picked fifth in the National Division with 67 points.
The 2011 women's soccer season kicks off Aug. 19, with BIG EAST play set to begin on Sept. 15. The BIG EAST is the nation's largest Division I women's soccer conference. Its 16 members compete in an 11-game schedule within two divisions of eight utilizing travel partners for crossover play. Each team plays the seven opponents within its division and four opponents from the other division.

Last year the league saw six teams selected for the NCAA Championship (Connecticut, Georgetown, Marquette, Notre Dame, USF and West Virginia) and totaled a record 12 wins during the tournament. In addition Notre Dame won the College Cup and earned the 31st national championship in conference history.

The 2011 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 first-round byes to the quarterfinals. The first-round and quarterfinal games are conducted on the campuses of the higher-seeded teams.

First-round games will be held on Oct. 27, with the quarterfinals following on Oct. 30. West Virginia's Dick Dlesk Stadium in Morgantown, W.Va., will serve as host for the semifinals (Nov. 4) as well as the championship game (Nov. 6). The final three matches of the championship will be televised live on the CBS Sports Network (CBS SN). The semifinals also will be carried exclusively on CBS SN, while the title game will be shown on numerous regional sports networks, including SportsNet New York (SNY) and www.bigeast.tv. The tournament champion receives the league's automatic berth into the 64-team NCAA Division I Women's Soccer Championship.

 
 
 
2011 BIG EAST WOMEN'S SOCCER PRESEASON POLL
 
                                                                     2010               2010                  BIG EAST
 
American                               Points          Overall           BIG EAST          Regular Season Finish       
1. West Virginia (8)             110            18-5-1          9-1-1               2nd
2. Marquette (5)               108            16-5-3          11-0-0             1st
3. Connecticut (3)               98              10-10-3         4-5-2               4th
4. USF                             76              14-6-3          6-3-2              3rd   
5. Providence                    51              9-7-2            3-6-2               T-6th  
6. St. John's                     50              6-10-2          3-7-1              8th          
7. Syracuse                      38              6-9-5            3-6-2               T-6th      
8. Pittsburgh                     37              7-11-2          4-6-1              5th     
 
 
                                                       2010               2010                  BIG EAST
 
National                                 Points          Overall           BIG EAST          Regular Season Finish
 
1. Notre Dame (15)            120            21-2-2          9-0-2               1st
2. Georgetown (1)              103            15-7-2          7-3-1               2nd  
3. Rutgers                        91              10-9-1          5-5-1              3rd
4. Louisville                       73              10-9-0          4-7-0               T-7th
5. Villanova                       67              7-12-0          2-9-0              5th   
6. DePaul                         54              11-9-2          5-6-0              4th  
7. Cincinnati                      30              8-10-1          2-9-0              T-7th  
7. Seton Hall                     30              7-10-1          3-7-1              6th
 
 
 
2011 BIG EAST PRESEASON AWARD WINNERS
 
Preseason Offensive Player of the Year
*Melissa Henderson, Sr., F, Notre Dame
 
 
Preseason Defensive Players of the Year
Kerry McBride, Sr., D, Marquette
Jessica Schuveiller, Sr., D, Notre Dame
 
 
Preseason Goalkeeper of the Year
Natalie Kulla, Sr., Marquette
 
 
 
2011 ALL-BIG EAST PRESEASON TEAM^
Kelly D'Ambrisi, Sr., M, Georgetown
Christine Exeter, So., F, Louisville
Jonelle Filigno, R-So., F, Rutgers
*Melissa Henderson, Sr., F, Notre Dame
Chelsea Klotz, Sr., F, USF
Natalie Kulla, Sr., GK, Marquette
Kerry McBride, Sr., D, Marquette
Bri Rodriguez, Jr., M, West Virginia
Katie Ryan, Sr., F, Villanova
Jessica Schuveiller, Sr., D, Notre Dame
Ingrid Wells, R-Sr., M, Georgetown
 
 
* - unanimous selection