Jan. 5, 2010
NOTRE DAME, Ind. -
The Notre Dame softball team, last year's BIG EAST Conference Tournament champion, was tabbed third in the BIG EAST Preseason Coaches' Poll released Tuesday by the league. The Irish received two first-place votes for 125 total points. Four squads received first-place votes and topped 110 points in the poll.
The Irish, who return 13 players with five newcomers in 2010, posted their 21st winning season in as many years with a 43-17 record in 2009. It was the 11th 40-win campaign in program history and fifth under head coach Deanna Gumpf. Notre Dame also advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the 11th straight year and was ranked 25th in the final regular season NFCA Top 25 poll. The ranking was the first since 2004 and the first to end the season since 2002.
"I think this preseason ranking is a good place for us to start," Gumpf said. "Our conference is getting better and better each year. We have a lot of hard work ahead of us before we begin our BIG EAST season and are completely focused on our team getting better each day we are out on the field. Our goal is to be able to put ourselves in the position to be the best team in May."
Louisville was named the favorite to win the BIG EAST title this season, as 2009 BIG EAST Player of the Year Melissa Roth leads a group of six returning players for the Cardinals who were all-BIG EAST selections last season. Louisville garnered six first-place votes and 137 total points to earn top billing in 2010.
DePaul was second with six fewer points than Louisville. The Blue Demons received four first-place votes and 131 points.
The final first-place vote was awarded to USF, who entered last year's BIG EAST finale as the No. 5 seed and upset No. 4 Syracuse before falling to top-seeded DePaul in the semifinals.
This season's BIG EAST Championship returns to Louisville, Ky., for the third straight season. The three-day tournament begins May 13 with four quarterfinal games. The semifinals on May 14 and the championship game on May 15 will be aired live on CBS College Sports.
Notre Dame opens the 2010 season against Creighton on Feb. 12 as part of the Kajikawa Classic in Tempe, Ariz.