Jan. 9, 2009
NOTRE DAME, Ind. -
The Notre Dame softball team, which welcomes four newcomers and returns 14 monogram winners from the 2008 squad that went 38-22-1, was tabbed third among league members in the BIG EAST Conference preseason poll released this week. The league's 13 head coaches voted in the poll, which named DePaul as the preseason favorite after the Blue Demons won the 2008 tournament title.
Notre Dame made its 10th consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance in 2008 and seeks its 21st overall winning season in as many tries in 2009. The team returns five all-BIG EAST performers in Brittney Bargar (who was also an all-NFCA Mideast Region honoree in 2008), Brianna Jorgensborg, Katie Fleury, Linda Kohan and Christine Lux.
The Irish have claimed five BIG EAST tournament titles in 13 seasons, 10 regular-season titles and sport a 206-39 (.841) record in conference play.
DePaul finished last season ranked No. 22 in the final USA Today/NFCA Top 25 Poll and will return their entire pitching staff, headlined by junior All-American Becca Heteniak. Heteniak struck out a school-record 315 batters and compiled a 33-8 record last season en route to earning BIG EAST Pitcher of the Year honors.
USF took the second spot on the preseason poll, picking up four first-place votes from the coaches. The Bulls wrapped up their first BIG EAST regular season championship in 2008 and made their ninth appearance in the NCAAs. Sophomore pitcher Capri Catalano, the 2008 BIG EAST Freshman of the Year, returns to lead the Bulls from the circle. Catalano threw 129.0 innings as a rookie, amassing a 17-1 record.
With the Blue Demons and Bulls collecting all available first-place votes, the next two squads in line, Louisville and Notre Dame, shared the poll's third slot. The Cardinals finished fifth in last season's final standings, while the Fighting Irish finished fourth.
Starting the season at the Bama Bash Feb. 13-15 in Tuscaloosa, Ala., Notre Dame will join Alabama, East Carolina and Wisconsin in the field. The Irish open BIG EAST play with a home doubleheader against St. John's on March 22 (Sunday) at Melissa Cook Stadium.
This year's BIG EAST Championship returns to Ulmer Stadium in Louisville for the second straight season from May 7-9.
2009 BIG EAST Softball Preseason Poll
team (first-place votes) / 2008 record
DePaul (9) / 51-18
USF (4) / 44-20
Louisville / 31-23
Notre Dame / 38-22
Connecticut / 28-22
Syracuse / 21-32
Pittsburgh / 31-25
Providence / 25-25
Villanova / 21-29
St. John's / 20-35
Rutgers / 23-32
Seton Hall / 20-33
Georgetown (not a softball member of the BIG EAST in 2008)