Cincinnati Unanimously Selected as 2010 BIG EAST Volleyball Favorite


Bearcats' Stephanie Niemer Named Preseason Player of the Year
 
PROVIDENCE, R.I. - For the first time since joining the BIG EAST in 2005, the Cincinnati Bearcats have emerged as the favorite in the 2010 BIG EAST Volleyball Preseason Coaches' Poll. The Bearcats were unanimously selected, receiving 196 points and all 14 first-place votes. The defending tournament champion Louisville was picked second while defending regular-season champion Notre Dame was selected third. The votes were cast by the league's 15 head coaches who were not permitted to vote for their own teams.
 
Cincinnati (25-11, 12-2 BIG EAST) finished second in the regular-season standings in 2009, posting a 12-2 conference record. The Bearcats then made a run all the way to the title game of the BIG EAST Championship, where they lost to Louisville. The UC squad returns BIG EAST Preseason Player of the Year senior Stephanie Niemer, who led the conference in total kills with 541 while finishing third in aces with 53. Niemer was a unanimous selection to the All-BIG EAST First Team in 2009, earning a spot on the AVCA All-Region team. The Bearcats also return All-BIG EAST First Team selection senior Annie Fesl and second team selection junior Missy Harpenau, both of whom were voted on to the All-BIG EAST Preseason list.
 
Since the inception of round-robin play in 1990, 19 of the last 20 preseason favorites have advanced to the finals of the BIG EAST Championship. Of those favorites, 15 have captured the tournament championship and advanced to the NCAA Championship, while 13 have taken the regular-season title. However, the last team to be selected first in the preseason poll and win the regular-season crown was Notre Dame in 2004.
 
Defending tournament champion Louisville (21-11, 10-4 BIG EAST) was selected to finish second with 176 points. The Cardinals will be led by sophomore Lola Arslanbekova, the 2009 BIG EAST Championship Most Outstanding Performer. Arslanbekova was a unanimous selection to the Preseason All-BIG EAST team. Last year's BIG EAST Freshman of the Year, she led the team with 533 kills and 587 points last year. The Cardinals also will return senior libero Lindsey Mango, who was a 2009 All-BIG EAST Tournament team selection. Louisville has become a staple in the finals of the BIG EAST Championship, making it to the title game five times and winning the crown three times since joining the conference in 2005.
 
After registering a perfect 14-0 mark in the regular season in 2009, Notre Dame (21-7, 14-0 BIG EAST) has been tabbed to finish third with 161 total points. Reigning BIG EAST Coach of the Year Debbie Brown will have to replace three All-BIG EAST First Team performers in Christina Kaelin, Jamel Nicholas and Serenity Philips, who have left due to graduation. Junior Kristen Dealy and senior middle blocker Kellie Sciacca will be the focal points of this year's squad, both earning spots on the All-BIG EAST Preseason Team. Sciacca led the conference in league play with a .429 hitting percentage in 2009.
 
With five returning starters, the Golden Eagles of Marquette (18-12, 6-8 BIG EAST) earned their highest ranking in the Preseason Coaches Poll, as they were picked to finish fourth with 158 points. Marquette returns All-BIG EAST Second Team performers senior Nikki Klingsporn and junior Ashley Beyer, as well as three-year starter senior Rabbecka Gonyo. Beyer and Klingsporn were both All-BIG EAST Preseason picks.
 
Senior Allie Boaz of USF, senior Vanessa Dorismond of Georgetown, juniors Kim Maroon and Maggie Mergen of Villanova, senior Rebecca Murray of Connecticut and senior Amy Town of Pittsburgh also were named to the All-BIG EAST Preseason team.
 
The volleyball season will start on Aug. 27 with every team playing in tournaments prior to conference play. BIG EAST play begins with a 14-game opening weekend on Sept. 24-26. 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 Pittsburgh at the Fitzgerald Field House.
 
First-round action of the BIG EAST Volleyball Championship will begin on Nov. 19. The event spans three days and is single elimination. ESPNU will televise the championship game on Nov. 21. The tournament champion will receive the league's automatic bid to the NCAA's 30th Annual Division I Women's Volleyball Championship.
 
2010 BIG EAST Volleyball Preseason Awards and Coaches Poll
 
BIG EAST Preseason Player of the Year
Stephanie Niemer, Cincinnati, Sr., OH
 
All-BIG EAST Preseason Team
*Lola Arslanbekova, Louisville, So., OH
Ashley Beyer, Marquette Jr., OH
Allie Boaz, USF, Sr., RS
Kristen Dealy, Notre Dame, Jr., OH
Vanessa Dorismond, Georgetown, Sr., OH
Annie Fesl, Cincinnati, Sr., S
Missy Harpenau, Cincinnati, Jr., OH
Nikki Klingsporn, Marquette, Sr., S
Kim Maroon, Villanova, Jr., L
Maggie Mergen, Villanova, Jr., MB
Rebecca Murray, Connecticut, Sr., MH
*Stephanie Niemer, Cincinnati, Sr., OH
Kellie Sciacca, Notre Dame, Sr., MB
Amy Town, Pittsburgh, Sr., OH
* - unanimous selection
^ - Due to a tie in voting, extra members have been added to the BIG EAST Preseason All-Conference Team
 
BIG EAST Preseason Coaches' Poll
 
                                                         BIG                                    BIG EAST
School                  Points              EAST             Overall            Finish
1. Cincinnati (14)    196              12-2            19-11            T-2nd
2. Louisville           176              10-4            21-11             4th
3. Notre Dame       161              14-0             21-7              1st       
4. Marquette (1)    158               6-8             18-12            T-8th               
5. Pittsburgh          139              12-2            20-11            T-2nd
6. USF                  122               9-5             18-10            T-5th     
7. Seton Hall          96               6-8             12-19            T-8th
8. Syracuse           94               9-5             21-11            T-5th
9. Connecticut        90               7-7             14-17             7th
10. St. John's         85               2-12             9-21             14th
11. Villanova          81               5-9              16-13             11th
12. Georgetown      65               4-10            14-16             12th
13. West Virginia     60               6-8             17-13            T-8th
14. Rutgers            35               3-11            10-19             13th
15. DePaul             17               0-14             6-23             15th
(-) - first-place votes