Aug. 12, 2010
NOTRE DAME, Ind. -
The Notre Dame volleyball team was picked to finish third in 2010 BIG EAST Conference regular season play, according to a vote of the league's 15 head coaches released Thursday afternoon. For the first time since joining the BIG EAST in 2005, Cincinnati emerged as the favorite in the BIG EAST Volleyball Preseason Coaches Poll. The Bearcats were unanimously selected, receiving 196 points and all 14 first-place votes. Louisville, the defending tournament champion, was picked second.
"I'm not too surprised by the poll and feel like we're in a good spot by being picked third," Irish head coach Debbie Brown said. "Losing six seniors from last season will leave a few questions unanswered. We're excited about competing this season and we're going to do all we can do to defend our regular season title while capturing the tournament crown as well."
Since the inception of round-robin play in 1990, 19 of the last 20 preseason favorites have advanced to the finals of the BIG EAST Championship. Of those favorites, 15 have captured the tournament championship and advanced to the NCAA Championship, while 13 have taken the regular-season title. However, the last team to be selected first in the preseason poll and win the regular-season crown was Notre Dame in 2004.
After registering a perfect 14-0 mark in the regular season in 2009, Notre Dame and Brown, the reigning BIG EAST Coach of the Year, will have to replace three first team all-BIG EAST performers in Christina Kaelin, Jamel Nicholas and Serenity Philips. Junior Kristen Dealy and senior middle blocker Kellie Sciacca both earned spots on the all-BIG EAST preseason team and will be counted on to shoulder the Irish into the postseason. Sciacca led the conference in league play with a .429 hitting percentage in 2009.
The volleyball season will start Aug. 27 (Friday) as the Irish host Marshall to kick off the Shamrock Invitational. BIG EAST play begins Sept. 24-26, as each league team plays each school once throughout the campaign. The top eight finishers in the BIG EAST regular season standings based on winning percentage will advance to the BIG EAST Volleyball Championship hosted by Pittsburgh.
First-round action of the BIG EAST Volleyball Championship begins Nov. 19. The event spans three days and is single elimination. ESPNU will televise the championship game on Nov. 21. The tournament champion will receive the league's automatic bid to the NCAA's 30th Annual Division I Women's Volleyball Championship.
2010 BIG EAST Volleyball Preseason Awards and Coaches Poll
BIG EAST Preseason Player of the Year
Stephanie Niemer, Cincinnati, Sr., OH
All-BIG EAST Preseason Team
*Lola Arslanbekova, Louisville, So., OH
Ashley Beyer, Marquette, Jr., OH
Allie Boaz, USF, Sr., RS
Kristen Dealy, Notre Dame, Jr., OH
Vanessa Dorismond, Georgetown, Sr., OH
Annie Fesl, Cincinnati, Sr., S
Missy Harpenau, Cincinnati, Jr., OH
Nikki Klingsporn, Marquette, Sr., S
Kim Maroon, Villanova, Jr., L
Maggie Mergen, Villanova, Jr., MB
Rebecca Murray, Connecticut, Sr., MH
*Stephanie Niemer, Cincinnati, Sr., OH
Kellie Sciacca, Notre Dame, Sr., MB
Amy Town, Pittsburgh, Sr., OH
* - unanimous selection
BIG EAST Preseason Coaches Poll
1. Cincinnati (14)
3. Notre Dame
4. Marquette (1)
7. Seton Hall
10. St. John's
13. West Virginia
(x) - first-place votes