Jan. 23, 2012
NOTRE DAME, Ind. -
One of five teams to receive first-place votes in the 2012 BIG EAST Conference preseason coaches' poll, Notre Dame was picked to finish third in the league standings as announced Monday by the conference.
DePaul was tabbed the preseason favorite by the league's coaches as the 2012 poll marks the first time since the current conference formation was set in 2006 that five teams have split the first-place votes.
Notre Dame received three first-place votes on the heels of finishing the 2011 season as the BIG EAST regular-season champion with a 46-11 overall record and a 19-1 mark in conference play. Last season, the Irish led the league in batting average (.330), slugging percentage (.511), on-base percentage (.397), runs scored (333), RBI (291) and total bases (742). Head coach Deanna Gumpf and the 2011 BIG EAST Coaching Staff of the Year will have to fill the shoes of five graduated all-BIG EAST selections, including BIG EAST Player of the Year Heather Johnson. The Irish will look to pitcher Laura Winter, outfielder Alexa Maldonado, pitcher and Brittany O'Donnell, who were BIG EAST selections last season.
DePaul earned three first-place votes and finished second in the 2011 regular-season standings. DePaul returns four all-BIG EAST selections, including the 2011 Rookie of the Year Kristen Verdun.
Two-time defending tournament champion Syracuse earned four first-place votes to slide into the poll's second spot.
This season's BIG EAST Championship will be held at Notre Dame's Melissa Cook Stadium. The league's top eight teams will advance to the three-day tournament (May 10-12) with the championship game to be televised May 12 on ESPN2.
2012 BIG EAST Softball Preseason Poll
1. DePaul (3)
2. Syracuse (4)
3. Notre Dame (3)
4. Louisville (2)
5. USF (1)
10. St. John's
13. Seton Hall