Aug. 10, 2010
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - The Notre Dame women's soccer team was a near-unanimous selection as the favorite to win the 2010 BIG EAST Conference National Division title, according to a vote of the league's 16 head coaches released Tuesday afternoon. The Fighting Irish picked up 119 points (one shy of the maximum), including 14 of a possible 15 first-place tallies (coaches may not vote for their own teams), in the balloting, as they seek their 14th BIG EAST regular-season crown and eighth in a row -- nine of the previous 13 (1999-2001, 2003, 2005-09) have been divisional championships (including the past five), while the other four were overall regular-season titles (1995-97, 2004).
Notre Dame, which also was ranked fourth in the preseason National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) poll released Tuesday, returns 16 monogram winners, including nine starters, from last season's team that posted a 21-4-1 record and advanced to the NCAA Women's College Cup for the fourth consecutive season (and fifth in the past six seasons as well as the 11th time overall). The Fighting Irish also went 10-0-1 in the BIG EAST a year ago, capped off with a 2-1 victory over Marquette in the conference title match to secure Notre Dame's 11th BIG EAST postseason crown.
The Fighting Irish will enter the 2010 season with an NCAA Division I-record 66-game unbeaten streak (63-0-3) against BIG EAST opponents, a run that started on Oct. 2, 2005, with a 4-0 win at South Florida. The NCAA all-division record for the longest unbeaten streak against conference opponents (including postseason play) is held by Division III member Oneonta State (N.Y.), which posted a 101-game unbeaten streak from Sept. 8, 1999-Oct. 6, 2007 -- a record that is being threatened by fellow D-III entity Hardin-Simmons (Texas), which in the midst of an active 99-game unbeaten streak dating back to Sept. 20, 2003.
"While we certainly appreciate our place in the BIG EAST preseason poll, we also realize that with that ranking comes a great deal of expectation," 12th-year Notre Dame head coach Randy Waldrum said. "The BIG EAST had seven teams selected for last year's NCAA tournament, with four winning at least one game in the tournament, and the other three barely losing their first-round games on either PKs or by just one goal. So it's obvious that the BIG EAST is one of the true power conferences in the country, and it's going to be a tremendous challenge for us to meet the expectations that have been set for us this season, but it's a challenge we're looking forward to meeting head-on."
For the second consecutive season, the conference coaches chose junior forward Melissa Henderson (Garland, Texas/Berkner) as the BIG EAST Preseason Offensive Player of the Year, also marking the sixth consecutive season a Notre Dame player has earned that distinction (Katie Thorlakson - 2005; Kerri Hanks - 2006 & 2007; Brittany Bock - 2008). Henderson, who also was one of four Fighting Irish players selected to the Preseason All-BIG EAST Team, rang up 18 goals and five assists (41 points) last year, leading the conference in both goals and points, as well as gamewinning goals (a school-record nine). She collected first-team MVP honors (equivalent to All-America status) from Soccer America, as well as first-team NSCAA all-Northeast Region and second-team all-BIG EAST accolades, and she was dominant in the 2009 postseason, registering 10 goals (including two hat tricks, a Notre Dame first in postseason play) and dishing out three assists as the Fighting Irish reeled off seven consecutive wins en route to the BIG EAST tournament title and the NCAA College Cup semifinals.
Fowlkes earned NSCAA third-team All-America honors and ESPN The Magazine second-team Academic All-America accolades last season after piling up career highs of 10 goals and four assists (24 points) following an early-season move to forward due to various injuries on the Notre Dame roster. Fowlkes also was named the BIG EAST Co-Offensive Player of the Year and BIG EAST Championship Most Outstanding Offensive Player, as well as a NSCAA first-team all-region and first-team all-conference selection, and she could become the first player in BIG EAST history (since league play started in 1995) to collect both the conference's offensive and defensive player-of-the-year awards during her career.
A nominee for the 2010 Lowe's Senior CLASS Award, Fowlkes also is in the unique position of possibly being just the 13th student-athlete in Notre Dame athletics history (and the third Fighting Irish women's soccer player) to couple All-America and Academic All-America honors in the same season on two different occasions. The 1996 NSCAA Player of the Year, goalkeeper Jen Renola, was the first to pull off that feat in 1995 and 1996, and more recently, midfielder/forward Brittany Bock (now with the Washington Freedom of Women's Professional Soccer) matched that double in 2007 and 2008.
The trio of Henderson, Fowlkes and Schuveiller have not only been mainstays on the college circuit, but also were important contributors on the United States Under-23 National Team that won the Four Nations Tournament last month in England. Henderson and Fowlkes started two of the three games for Team USA, with Henderson assisting on the lone goal in the clinching 1-0 win over Sweden in the tourney finale. Schuveiller saw action in two games, the first international caps (appearances) of her career, and started against Sweden.
Rounding out Notre Dame's four-player contingent on the preseason all-BIG EAST squad was junior midfielder Courtney Barg (Plano, Texas/Plano West). An NSCAA first-team All-American and Hermann Trophy semifinalist last season, Barg started all 26 games for the Fighting Irish, expertly controlling the Notre Dame attack from her holding midfield position while collecting a goal and two assists. She was named the BIG EAST Midfielder of the Year, and later was chosen for a place on both the NCAA College Cup and BIG EAST Championship all-tournament teams.
Rutgers, which will play host to this year's BIG EAST Championship semifinals (Nov. 5) and final (Nov. 7), earned the other two first-place votes in the preseason BIG EAST National Division balloting, giving the Scarlet Knights an even 100 points as they look to build upon last year's NCAA second-round appearance. Georgetown was tabbed third in the National Division with 95 points.
Notre Dame will kick off its 2010 schedule with its lone exhibition contest at 1 p.m. (ET) Friday against 17th-ranked Virginia at Myles Kimmerly Park in Maple City, Mich., before returning home to face Minnesota in its regular-season opener on Aug. 20 (5:30 p.m. ET kickoff) at Alumni Stadium. Season and single-game tickets for the 2010 Notre Dame soccer campaign are available by contacting the Murnane Family Ticket Office by phone (574-631-7356) or in person (Gate 9 in the Rosenthal Atrium at Purcell Pavilion) weekdays from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. (ET). Fans also can purchase tickets on-line through the tickets page of the official Notre Dame athletics web site (www.UND.com/tickets) or by visiting the ticket windows at Alumni Stadium on game night.
For more information on the Notre Dame women's soccer program, join the Fighting Irish women's soccer news Twitter page (www.twitter.com/NDsoccernews) or sign up for the Irish ALERT text-messaging system through the sidebar on the women's soccer page at UND.com.