Oct. 2, 1997
BIG EAST Coaches Pick Notre Dame to Win Volleyball Title
PROVIDENCE, R.I. - The University of Notre Dame volleyball team--heading into its first weekend of conference play--has been unanimously chosen as the favorite to win the 1997 BIG EAST regular season title by a preseason vote of the league's 12 head coaches.
Notre Dame, led by 1996 BIG EAST Player of the Year Jaimie Lee, received all 11 possible first-place votes, totaling 121 points. The Irish finished the 1996 season 22-11 and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Championship. Head coach Debbie Brown's squad was ranked No. 17 in the 1997 AVCA/USA Today preseason poll. The Irish currently are 7-5 and unranked, with all of their losses coming against top-25-ranked opponents.
Notre Dame has won the last two BIG EAST regular season and tournament championships and has won all 26 of its matches against BIG EAST opponents during the past two seasons, with 22 of those victories coming by a score of 3-0 and just one extending to five games (when the Irish had to rally from a 2-0 deficit against Villanova in '96). During Brown's previous six season as Irish head coach, Notre Dame is 63-0 versus conference opponents, including a 37-0 run in the Midwestern Collegiate Conference from 1991-94.
The Irish open their 1997 BIG EAST schedule at home on Friday night, Oct. 3, against St. John's (7:00 p.m.) before playing host to Connecticut on Sunday, Oct. 5, at 2:00 p.m. Syracuse will play host to UConn on Friday and St. John's on Sunday. Friday's other conference-opening matches include Rutgers at Boston College and Villanova at West Virginia. Saturday's schedule features Georgetown at Pittsburgh and Seton Hall at Providence while a full slate of Sunday matches includes Seton Hall at Boston College, Villanova at Pittsburgh, Rutgers at Providence and Georgetown at West Virginia.
St. John's and UConn both participated in the six-team 1996 BIG EAST Tournament. St. John's returns four starters from its 1996 team that finished 24-7 overall and 6-5 in the BIG EAST. The Red Storm are off to a 6-6 start in 1997 and were picked sixth in the preseason BIG EAST poll. Connecticut returns five starters from its 18-13 team of a year ago (6-5 BIG EAST). The Huskies were picked fourth in the preseason poll and enter the weekend with a record of 6-5.
Pittsburgh--the 1995 and '96 BIG EAST runner-up--finished second in the 1997 preseason coaches poll. The Panthers received 108 points and are coached by Cindy Alvear. Pittsburgh has reached the BIG EAST Championship match 14 of the last 15 years, and has won the title 10 times. The Panthers are 7-4 heading into BIG EAST action. Villanova finished third in the preseason poll with 99 points. The Wildcats finished 1996 with a 21-8 mark and are off to a 10-5 start in 1997. The remainder of the poll is as follows (4th-112th): Connecticut (86 points), Syracuse (78), St. John's (76), Georgetown (67), West Virginia (50), Seton Hall (34), Rutgers (33), Providence (24) and Boston College (16).
The BIG EAST Volleyball Championship will be Nov. 22-23 at Walsh Gymnasium on the campus of Seton Hall University.
NOTES: Notre Dame posted road wins during the 1996 season at UConn (15-12, 15-2, 15-10) and St. John's (15-6, 15-12, 15-11) ... three Irish players received BIG EAST player of the week honors during the first three weeks of the 1997 season: senior hitter Angie Harris, junior middle Lindsay Treadwell and Lee ... Lee leads all BIG EAST players during the 1997 season with 4.52 kills per game, just off the Notre Dame record pace set by Christy Peters in 1994 (4.59/gm) ... Harris is third among BIG EAST players with 4.23 kills/gm, as Lee and Harris attempt to be the first Irish teammates to both average over four kills per game in the same season ... UConn junior hitter Janelle Koester--a first team all-BIG EAST selection in 1996--ranks sixth in the BIG EAST with 3.86 kpg ... Harris ranks fifth in the conference with 0.46 service aces per game ... St. John's sophomore middle Joi Thomas leads the BIG EAST with a .358 hitting percentage ... Denise Boylan--the first freshman to open the season as Notre Dame's primary setter since 1988--ranks second in the BIG EAST with 11.51 assists per game ... four of the BIG EAST's top-six blockers will be showcased in the Joyce Center this weekend ... Thomas and Notre Dame sophomore middle Mary Leffers are tied for the BIG EAST lead with 1.41 blocks per game while Treadwell is third at 1.24 and St. John's senior middle Anne Bouthilette is fifth (1.07) ... Notre Dame ranks fifth among BIG EAST teams in season hitting pct. (.223) and second in blocks (2.93/gm) ... St. John's ranks fourth in team hitting (.230) and first in blocks (3.18/gm) ... UConn owns the BIG EAST's fifth-best service ace average, at 1.80 per game.
1997 Preseason BIG EAST Volleyball Poll - (first-place votes in parenthesis)