The Blue Demons earned eight first-place votes en route to being tabbed as the preseason favorite. DePaul joins the conference following a 2005 campaign in which the Blue Demons captured the Conference USA Tournament title and advanced to the NCAA Division I Women's College World Series before falling to, eventual national champion Michigan and Alabama in the double-elimination tournament.
Notre Dame has earned the second place slot in the preseason poll after four consecutive seasons of being the number one pick. The defending conference regular-season champion earned two first place votes. Last season, ND earned an at-large bid to the NCAA Championship, winning two games and dropping a pair of games during regional action against Northwestern.
Two conference newcomers, USF and Louisville, have been tabbed as the third and fourth place teams, respectively. USF earned a pair of first place votes, following a season in which the Bulls competed in the NCAA Regional for the third consecutive season. Louisville, the 2005 Conference USA regular season champions, finished last season with a 43-20 overall record and competed in the NCAA Championships.
Syracuse has been selected to finish fifth for the second season in a row, after finishing third in the league in 2005 with a 28-22 overall record. Seton Hall, which captured the 2005 BIG EAST Championship crown, has claimed the sixth spot after finishing second in the league with a 34-15 overall record last season.
The seventh spot in this year's preseason polls belongs to Villanova. The Wildcats finished last season with a fourth place finish and a 38-25 overall record. Pittsburgh claimed the eighth position following a season in which the Panthers earned their best conference mark in program history, 8-8 and a 23-29 overall record. St. John's has been projected to finish ninth following a 20-30-1 campaign in 2005. Connecticut has been picked to finish 10th after compiling a 20-25 record and a sixth place finish last season. Providence finished the '05 season 33-20 and has been fixed to finish 11th. Rutgers is projected to finish 12th after earning a 5-43 mark a year ago.
The 2006 softball season will begin on Feb. 10 with four league teams in action. BIG EAST Conference play will start on Feb. 25 with eight teams facing off against conference foes.
The 2006 BIG EAST Softball Championships will feature eight of the league's 12 teams in a single elimination format. The tournament will be held over three days, May 11-14, at the Belleville Softball Complex in South Bend, Ind., for the second consecutive year. The '06 championship marks the third time since the league began hosting a championship in 1990, that the event has been held at an off-campus site.
The Blue Demons throw their first pitch of the 2006 season Friday, February 10th in DeLand, Florida. DePaul will take on Charleston Southern and Northern Iowa in its first day of competition at the Stetson Tournament. The team embarks on their first season in the BIG EAST on Saturday, April 1 when they host Providence in their new Lincoln Park home, Cacciatore Stadium.
2006 BIG EAST Preseaon Poll
School Points 05' Record
1. DePaul (8) 115 45-19
2. Notre Dame (2) 108 46-15
3. USF (2) 102 42-28
4. Louisville 95 43-20
5. Syracuse 78 28-22
6. Seton Hall 68 34-15
7. Villanova 65 38-25
8. Pittsburgh 47 23-29
9. St. John's 38 20-30-1
10. Connecticut 37 20-25
11. Providence 28 33-20
12. Rutgers 11 5-43
DePaul Softball Picked to Win BIG EAST Title
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