Louisville Selected as 2011 BIG EAST Volleyball Favorite

PROVIDENCE, R.I. - The Louisville Cardinals have been selected as the favorite in the 2011 BIG EAST Volleyball Preseason Coaches' Poll. For the third time in four years (2008, 09, 11) the Cardinals were selected to win the league's regular-season title, this year receiving 190 points and 11 first-place votes. Notre Dame was picked second, edging defending regular-season champion Cincinnati, who was selected third. The votes were cast by the league's 15 head coaches, who were not permitted to vote for their own teams.
 
Louisville (23-8, 12-2 BIG EAST) finished second in the regular-season standings in 2010, posting a 12-2 conference record. The Cardinals navigated their way to the BIG EAST title game and defeated top-seeded Cincinnati in straight sets to capture the 2010 BIG EAST Championship. First year Head Coach Anne Kordes inherits BIG EAST Preseason Player of the Year junior Lola Arslanbekova, who finished second in the conference last season in total kills with 444 and third in points per game with 4.19. Arslanbekova was selected to the All-BIG EAST First Team in 2010; she also earned a spot on the AVCA All-Northeast Region team as well as the AVCA Division I Honorable Mention All-America Team. The Cardinals also return All-BIG EAST Second Team selections senior Gwen Rucker and sophomore Emily Juhl, both of whom were voted on to the All-BIG EAST Preseason Team. Juhl was named the BIG EAST Championship Most Outstanding Player in 2010. Louisville has become a regular in the finals of the BIG EAST Championship, making it to the title game six times and winning the crown four times since joining the conference in 2005.
 
Since the inception of round-robin play in 1990, 20 of the last 21 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 14 have taken the regular-season title. Teams have won both the regular-season title and BIG EAST Championship 14 times, most recently St. John's in 2007.
 
Notre Dame (18-13, 10-4 BIG EAST) was selected to finish second with 176 points and one first place vote. The Fighting Irish will be led by sophomore Andrea McHugh, the 2010 BIG EAST Freshman of the Year. McHugh earned All-BIG EAST First Team honors last season and was selected to the All-BIG EAST Preseason Team this year. In 2010 she was named the AVCA Northeast Region Freshman of the Year, as she led Notre Dame with 386 kills and 437.5 points. The Fighting Irish also will return senior Kristen Dealy who was named to the All-BIG EAST Preseason Team this year.
 
After registering a 13-1 mark in the regular season in 2010, Cincinnati (30-6, 13-1 BIG EAST) has been tabbed to finish third with 175 total points and three first-place votes. Reigning BIG EAST Coach of the Year Reed Sunahara will have to replace two All-BIG EAST First Team performers including 2010 BIG EAST Player of the Year Stephanie Niemer as well as Annie Fesl. Junior Jordaane Scott returns as a unanimous Preseason All-BIG EAST Team pick. Scott earned All-BIG EAST First Team honors last year.
 
With 11 returning letterwinners, the Golden Eagles of Marquette (23-9, 11-3 BIG EAST) were picked to finish fourth for the second consecutive year with 164 points. Marquette returns All-BIG EAST First Team performer senior Ashley Beyer. Last season Beyer was named to the AVCA All-Northeast Region as she finished second in the conference in kills and points with 3.87 per set and 4.40 point per game, respectively. She is a 2011 All-BIG EAST Preseason pick.
 
Seniors Kim Maroon and Maggie Mergen of Villanova, senior Megan Matusiak of Seton Hall, senior Darlene Ramdin of St. John's and senior Noemie Lefebvre of Syracuse also were named to the All-BIG EAST Preseason team. Maroon was one of three unanimous selections.
 
The volleyball season will start on Aug. 26 with every team playing in tournaments prior to conference play. BIG EAST play begins with a 14-game opening weekend on Sept. 23-25. 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 Marquette University at the Al McGuire Center in Milwaukee, Wis.
 
First-round action of the BIG EAST Volleyball Championship will begin on Nov. 18. The event spans three days and is single elimination. ESPNU will televise the championship game on Nov. 20. The tournament champion will receive the league's automatic bid to the NCAA's 31st Annual Division I Women's Volleyball Championship.
 
2011 BIG EAST Volleyball Preseason Awards and Coaches Poll
 
BIG EAST Preseason Player of the Year
*Lola Arslanbekova, Louisville, Jr., OH
 
All-BIG EAST Preseason Team
*Jordaane Scott, Cincinnati, Jr., MB
*Lola Arslanbekova, Louisville, Jr., OH
Emily Juhl, Louisville, So., OH
Gwen Rucker, Louisville, Sr., MH
Ashley Beyer, Marquette Sr., OH
Kristen Dealy, Notre Dame, Sr., OH
Andrea McHugh, Notre Dame, So., OH
Darlene Ramdin, St. John's, Sr., OH/MH
Megan Matusiak, Seton Hall, Sr., RS
Noemie Lefebvre, Syracuse, Sr., OH
*Kim Maroon, Villanova, Sr., L
Maggie Mergen, Villanova, Sr., MB
 
* - unanimous selection
 
BIG EAST Preseason Coaches' Poll
 
School
Points
BIG EAST
Overall
BIG EAST Finish
1. Louisville (11)
190
12-2
23-8
2nd
2. Notre Dame (1)
176
10-4
18-13
5th
3. Cincinnati (3)
175
13-1
30-6
1st
4. Marquette
164
11-3
23-9
T-3rd
5. Villanova
137
11-3
23-7
T-3rd
6. Seton Hall
115
7-7
13-18
T-6th
7. Pittsburgh
107
7-7
13-18
T-6th
8. USF
96
6-8
10-18
8th
9. Syracuse
85
5-9
23-9
T-9th
10. St. John's
81
5-9
18-13
T-9th
11. Connecticut
72
4-10
6-19
13th
12. West Virginia
69
5-9
15-15
T-9th
13. Georgetown
60
5-9
15-15
T-9th
14. Rutgers
27
3-11
11-17
14th
15. DePaul
21
1-13
4-26
15th
 
(-) - first-place votes