Women's Soccer Preview

PROVIDENCE, R.I. - The 2011 women's soccer season kicks off this Friday as 14 BIG EAST teams are in action, including defending national champion Notre Dame. The Irish, who were picked to win the league's National Division, will host Wisconsin at 5:30 p.m. ET. The match will be webcast live and free of charge on the official Fighting Irish athletics web site, www.UND.com. Notre Dame is ranked No. 1 in the preseason NSCAA/Continental Tire poll and No. 2 in the Soccer America rankings. A full schedule of this weekend's games can be found below. The Irish are one of four league teams ranked in the national polls. Marquette is ranked No. 12 in the NSCAA poll and No. 14 in Soccer America. West Virginia checks in at No. 13 in the NSCAA poll and No. 21 in the Soccer America rankings, while Georgetown is ranked No. 23 in the NSCAA poll and No. 15 in Soccer America rankings. Five BIG EAST stars also were named to the Missouri Athletic Club's Hermann Trophy Watch List. Notre Dame senior Melissa Henderson is the only returnee of three 2010 finalists. She is joined on the 42-player list by teammate and classmate Courtney Barg. Marquette senior Kerry McBride, Georgetown redshirt senior Ingrid Wells and West Virginia junior Bri Rodriguez also were cited. A BIG EAST player has won the award five times, including former Notre Dame standout Kerri Hanks, who won the award in 2006 and 2008, becoming the first league player to accomplish the feat twice. In addition the Soccer America Preseason All-America awards were released featuring four conference standouts. Melissa Henderson and Jessica Schuveiller represent the Irish, while Marquette's Kerry McBride and Georgetown's Ingrid Wells also were named to the list. The BIG EAST has four players listed as candidates for the Lowe's Senior CLASS Award: Marquette's Natalie Kulla and Kerry McBride, along with Notre Dame's Melissa Henderson and Georgetown's Ingrid Wells. To be eligible for the award, a student-athlete must be classified as an NCAA Division I senior and have notable achievements in four areas of excellence - community, classroom, character and competition. Seven games involving league teams also are slated for national television. Marquette will host Milwaukee on Sept. 7 at 8 p.m. ET on the Fox Soccer Channel. In addition, a league contest between USF and Notre Dame will air on Fox Soccer on Sept. 22 at 7 p.m. The match will take place in Tampa, Fla. The Irish also travel to UConn on Sept. 30 for a 7:30 p.m. ET contest slated for ESPNU. It will be a rematch of last year's BIG EAST Championship quarterfinal contest in which the Huskies upset the Irish and won 2-0 to snap a 77-match Notre Dame unbeaten streak against conference opponents. Rutgers and West Virginia will square off in Morgantown on Sept. 25 on the CBS Sports Network. The Noon telecast features a pair of veteran head coaches as 12th-year Rutgers coach Glenn Crooks will face 15th-year West Virginia coach Nikki Izzo-Brown. The Mountaineers also were picked to win the league's American Division in the BIG EAST Preseason Poll. All three of the matches of the BIG EAST Championship (Nov. 4 & 6) in Morgantown, W.Va., will be broadcast live on the CBS Sports Network. In addition, the championship match will be produced by BIG EAST TV and will be available on numerous regional sports networks including SNY in the metro New York area. The champion receives the league's automatic bid to the 64-team NCAA Division I Women's Soccer Championship. The league totaled a record 12 wins during the NCAA Championship last season. In addition, a BIG EAST school has advanced to the NCAA College Cup 12 times in the past 16 years (since 1995). Furthermore, a BIG EAST squad has played for the women's soccer national championship nine times in the last 14 seasons and claimed three national titles (Notre Dame in 1995, 2004 and 2010). The BIG EAST also returns 16 of 24 players named to the All-BIG EAST First and Second Teams following the 2010 season. The 2011 BIG EAST Women's Soccer Web Guide is available here. AUGUST 19 Iowa at DePaul 4:00 p.m. James Madison vs. Villanova 4:00 p.m. 15/23 Georgetown at George Washington 4:00 p.m. Embassy Suites Kick Off Classic Syracuse vs. Robert Morris (Fort Myers, Fla.) 5:00 p.m. Louisville at Eastern Kentucky 5:00 p.m. Wisconsin at 2/1 Notre Dame 5:30 p.m. La Salle at Rutgers 7:00 p.m. St. John's at William & Mary 7:00 p.m. Eastern Michigan at Pittsburgh 7:00 p.m. Northeastern at Connecticut 7:00 p.m. USF at 24/NR Central Florida 7:00 p.m. Cal-Poly at Cincinnati 7:00 p.m. 21/13 West Virginia at 16/10 Virginia 7:30 p.m. Western Michigan at 14/12 Marquette 8:30 p.m. 21 Xavier at Cincinnati 1:00 p.m. Bryant at Providence 1:00 p.m. St. John's at George Mason 1:00 p.m. Embassy Suites Kick Off Classic Syracuse at Florida Gulf Coast 1:00 p.m. Purdue at 21/13 West Virginia 1:00 p.m. American at 15/23 Georgetown 1:00 p.m. Pittsburgh at Ohio 1:00 p.m. DePaul at Milwaukee 2:30 p.m. St. Joseph's at Villanova 4:00 p.m. Fordham at Seton Hall 7:00 p.m. Drexel at Rutgers 7:00 p.m. Northwestern at 14/12 Marquette 8:30 p.m. All times are Eastern and subject to change Rankings are listed NSCAA/Soccer America polls