PROVIDENCE, R.I. - Notre Dame and Marquette are picked as favorites in the 2010 BIG EAST preseason women's soccer poll. The Irish received 14 first-place votes and are picked to win the league's National Division, while the Golden Eagles had six first-place votes and sit atop the American Division in the poll. Both programs won their respective regular-season division titles last season. The votes were cast by the league's 16 head coaches, who were not permitted to vote for their own teams.

Notre Dame totaled 119 points and has been picked for first-place in each of the last 16 years dating to 1995, when it joined the BIG EAST. Last year the Irish went 21-4-1 (10-0-1 BIG EAST), including a 2-1 win over Marquette in the title game of the BIG EAST Championship.

Irish junior forward Melissa Henderson earns BIG EAST Preseason Offensive Player of the Year honors for the second-straight season. She led the league with 41 points last season, including 18 goals. In league play, she totaled nine points in nine games. Joining her on the All-BIG EAST Preseason Team is junior teammate Jessica Schuveiller and senior Lauren Fowlkes. Both shared Preseason Defensive Player of the Year honors garnering six votes apiece. As a team the Irish posted 16 shutouts last year, including eight in conference play. Junior Courtney Barg also earned a spot on the Preseason All-BIG EAST team.

Headlining the American Division is Marquette with 108 points. The Golden Eagles (15-5-3, 7-2-2 BIG EAST) won the regular-season crown last year. MU is anchored by Preseason Goalkeeper of the Year Natalie Kulla who led the league with 16 shutouts in 2009. During conference play she posted seven clean sheets in 11 games. She also was named to the All-BIG EAST Preseason Team, along with junior teammate Rachael Sloan. The Golden Eagles are led by 2009 BIG EAST Coach of the Year Markus Roeders.

West Virginia is picked second in the American Division behind Marquette with 106 points, including five first-place votes. The Mountaineers (10-7-6, 5-3-3 BIG EAST) have advanced to the NCAA Championship in each of the last 10 years. Senior forward Megan Mischler should be a critical piece of the Mountaineers offense and is an All-BIG EAST Preseason selection.

Just behind Marquette and West Virginia is Connecticut, picked third in the American Division with 103 points, including five first-place votes. The Huskies should be led offensively by All-BIG EAST Preseason pick in sophomore Linda Ruutu. Totaling 20 points last season, Ruutu was an All-BIG EAST Second Team selection as a freshman, as well as a member of the All-BIG EAST Rookie Team.

Rutgers is tabbed second in the National Division behind Notre Dame totaling 100 points, including two first-place votes. The Scarlet Knights (14-4-4, 7-1-3 BIG EAST) will have to fill a void in net, due to the graduation of goalkeeper Erin Guthrie. RU gets a major contributor back courtesy of All-BIG EAST Preseason Team selection Gina DeMaio, who returns for a fifth-year following an injury seven games into the 2009 campaign. DeMaio was a unanimous All-BIG EAST Preseason pick in 2009.

Georgetown (12-6-2, 6-4-1 BIG EAST) is picked third in the National Division with 95 points and returns unanimous All-BIG EAST Preseason selection Ingrid Wells. The redshirt junior tallied 25 points in 2009, including a league-leading 11 assists. Wells spent the 2008 season with the United States Under-20 National Team playing in the FIFA Under-20 World Cup. In 2007, Wells was the BIG EAST Rookie of the Year and became the first Georgetown player to earn a BIG EAST Postseason Award. Junior teammate Kelly D'Ambrisi also was listed to the All-BIG EAST Preseason Team.

 Also named to the All-BIG EAST Preseason Team is Villanova junior forward Katie Ryan.

While the season kicks off Aug. 20, BIG EAST play begins on Sept. 1 as Georgetown travels to Villanova. A majority of the league begins conference play Sept. 16-17. The BIG EAST is the nation's largest Division I women's soccer conference. Its 16 members compete in a round-robin rotational 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.

The 2010 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. 28, with the quarterfinals following on Oct. 31. Rutgers' Yurcak Field in Piscataway, N.J., will serve as host for the semifinals (Nov. 5) at 5:00 p.m. ET and 7:30 p.m. ET as well as the championship game (Nov. 7) at Noon, ET. The final three matches of the championship will be televised live on the CBS College Sports Network (CBS C). The semifinals also will be carried exclusively on CBS C, while the title game will be shown on numerous regional sports networks, including SportsNet NY (SNY). The title game also will be broadcast live nationally on CBS C beginning at noon ET. The tournament champion receives the league's automatic berth into the 64-team NCAA Division I Women's Soccer Championship.


                                                                     2009               2009                  BIG EAST

American                               Points          Overall           BIG EAST          Regular Season Finish       

1. Marquette (6)                108            15-5-3          7-2-2               1st

2. West Virginia (5)             106            10-7-6          5-3-3               3rd

3. Connecticut (5)               103            11-8-2          5-5-1               5th

4. USF                             63              9-8-3            5-4-2              4th  

5. St. John's                     59              13-6-2          6-4-1              2nd

6. Pittsburgh                     58              8-5-5            3-3-5              6th           

7. Syracuse                      38              5-11-3          2-8-1              8th           

8. Providence                    33              8-8-3            3-6-2              7th     


                                                       2009               2009                  BIG EAST

National                                 Points          Overall           BIG EAST          Regular Season Finish

1. Notre Dame (14)            119            21-4-1          10-0-1             1st

2. Rutgers (2)                   100            14-4-4          7-1-3               2nd  

3. Georgetown                  95              12-6-2          6-4-1              3rd

4. Villanova                       76              11-6-5          4-4-3               4th

5. Louisville                       68              5-11-1          2-8-1              7th  

6. DePaul                         49              10-9-2          5-6-0              5th

7. Cincinnati                      38              8-10-1          3-7-1              6th

8. Seton Hall                     23              5-12-1          1-9-1              8th



Preseason Offensive Player of the Year

Melissa Henderson, Jr., F, Notre Dame


Preseason Defensive Players of the Year

Jessica Schuveiller, Jr., D, Notre Dame

Lauren Fowlkes, Sr., D/M, Notre Dame


Preseason Goalkeeper of the Year

Natalie Kulla, Jr., Marquette



Courtney Barg, Jr., M, Notre Dame

Kelly D'Ambrisi, Jr., M, Georgetown

Gina DeMaio, R-Sr., M, Rutgers

Lauren Fowlkes, Sr., D/M, Notre Dame

Melissa Henderson, Jr., F, Notre Dame

Natalie Kulla, Jr., GK, Marquette

Megan Mischler, Sr., F, West Virginia

Linda Ruutu, So., M, Connecticut

Katie Ryan, Jr., F, Villanova

Jessica Schuveiller, Jr., D, Notre Dame

Rachael Sloan, Jr., F/M, Marquette

*Ingrid Wells, R-Jr., M, Georgetown


* - unanimous selection

^ - Due to a tie in voting, an extra member have been added to the BIG EAST Preseason All-Conference Team