Aug. 13, 2008
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The Notre Dame women’s soccer team has been unanimously selected as the favorite to win the 2008 BIG EAST Conference National Division title, according to a vote of the league’s 16 head coaches released Wednesday afternoon. The Irish picked up the maximum 120 points, including all 15 possible first-place tallies (coaches may not vote for their own teams), in the balloting, as they seek their 12th BIG EAST regular-season crown and sixth in a row — seven of the previous 11 (1999-2001, 2003, 2005-07) have been divisional championships (including the past three), while the other four were overall regular-season titles (1995-97, 2004).
Voted fifth in Tuesday’s preseason National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) poll, Notre Dame returns 19 monogram winners, including nine starters, from last season’s team which posted a 19-5-2 record and advanced to the NCAA College Cup semifinals for the ninth time in the past 14 seasons (and third in four years). The Irish also went 11-0-0 in the BIG EAST a year ago, and will head into the 2008 season with a 38-game unbeaten streak against conference opponents (36-0-2 since October 2005), the longest run in school history and fifth-longest in NCAA Division I history.
“It’s always a tremendous honor to be voted to win your division in a conference as tough as the BIG EAST,” 10th-year Notre Dame head coach Randy Waldrum said. “We have been fortunate to experience a great deal of success in conference play through the years. We also understand that being voted number-one brings with it added expectations, but we embrace those challenges and are looking forward to great things in 2008.”
The conference coaches also chose Irish senior All-America midfielder/forward Brittany Bock (Naperville, Ill./Neuqua Valley) as the BIG EAST Preseason Offensive Player of the Year. Bock, who also was a unanimous selection to the ’08 All-BIG EAST Preseason Team, led the league in goals (16) last year and became Notre Dame’s fourth consecutive winner of the BIG EAST Offensive Player of the Year award, the first in a series of postseason honors that culminated with a NSCAA first-team All-America citation. A team co-captain for 2008, Bock is one of 17 players in school history with 100 career points (40G-20A) and she is looking to join Katie Thorlakson (2004, 2005) as the only Irish players to earn the BIG EAST Offensive Player of the Year honor more than once.
Fellow senior forward Kerri Hanks (Allen, Texas/Allen) also was a unanimous choice on the preseason all-conference team following a 2007 campaign that saw her lead the nation in assists (21) and set the BIG EAST pace in points (49). Hanks had been the BIG EAST Preseason Offensive Player of the Year the past two seasons and earned the league’s postseason Offensive Player of the Year honor in 2006. A three-time All-American (and first-team honoree the past two years), Hanks also took home the ’06 M.A.C. Hermann Trophy, becoming the first sophomore to earn the award. She enters her final season with 186 career points (64G-58A), putting her in position to become the third player in NCAA Division I history to register 70 goals and 70 assists in her career, joining former Notre Dame All-American Jenny Streiffer (1996-99) and former North Carolina standout Mia Hamm in that illustrious club.
West Virginia earned top honors in the BIG EAST American Division with 114 points (nine first-place votes), according to Wednesday’s preseason coaches poll. The Mountaineers (who played the Irish to a 1-1 double-overtime tie in the ’07 BIG EAST title game and took the crown on penalty kicks), were one of three conference teams to reach the NCAA quarterfinals last year, along with Notre Dame and American Division runner-up Connecticut (111 points, seven first-place votes).
Notre Dame opened its 2008 exhibition schedule Tuesday night with a 3-1 victory over defending Conference USA champion Memphis at Alumni Field. The Irish will take on sixth-ranked Virginia at 2 p.m. (ET) Saturday at the Keystone Soccer Complex in Traverse City, Mich., before returning home to face Michigan in their regular-season opener on Aug. 22 (7:30 p.m. ET kickoff).
2008 BIG EAST Preseason Women’s Soccer Coaches’ Poll
|National Division (1st-place votes)||Points||2007 Overall Record||2007 BIG EAST Record||2007 BIG EAST Regular-Season Divisional Finish|
|NOTRE DAME (15)||120||19-5-2||11-0-0||1st|
|American Division (1st-place votes)||Points||2007 Overall Record||2007 BIG EAST Record||2007 BIG EAST Regular-Season Divisional Finish|
|West Virginia (9)||114||18-5-2||9-1-1||1st|
2008 BIG EAST Preseason Award Winners
|Preseason Offensive Player of the Year||Brittany Bock (Sr., M/F), Notre Dame|
|Preseason Defensive Player of the Year||Kelly Eagan (Jr., D), Villanova|
|Preseason Goalkeeper of the Year||Stephanie Labbe (Sr.), Connecticut|
2008 All-BIG EAST Preseason Team^
|Greer Barnes (Sr., M), West Virginia|
|Carolyn Blank (Jr., M), West Virginia|
|*Brittany Bock (Sr., M/F), Notre Dame|
|Amanda Cicchini (Sr., M), West Virginia|
|Gina DeMaio (Jr., M), Rutgers|
|Kelly Eagan (Jr., D), Villanova|
|Elizabeth Eng (Sr., F), Connecticut|
|Deana Everett (Sr., F), West Virginia|
|Sara Jordan (Sr., M), Georgetown|
|*Kerri Hanks (Sr., F), Notre Dame|
|Katie Kelly (Sr., D), Marquette|
|Stephanie Labbe (Sr., GK), Connecticut|
|Shannon Smyth (Sr., F), Louisville|
* – unanimous selection
^ – due to a tie in voting, two extra members have been added to the All-BIG EAST Preseason Team
— ND —