DePaul Named Big East Softball Favorite

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – The DePaul Blue Demons, coming off their fourth trip to the Women's College World Series, were picked to finish first in the 2008 BIG EAST Softball Preseason poll, by a vote of the league's 12 coaches who were not permitted to select their own squad. DPU received nine first-place votes and 116 points.

USF finished second in the poll with three first-place votes and 110 points, while defending BIG EAST Champion Louisville followed at third with 100 points.

DePaul, the 2007 BIG EAST regular season champions, were eliminated in the WCWS by eventual-winner Arizona in a 3-0 loss on June 2 at the ASA Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City, Okla. The 14th-seeded squad reached its fourth WCWS berth defeating Mississippi Valley (10-0) and sweeping Missouri (2-0, 3-0) in the NCAA Carbondale Regional, and then trouncing the third-seeded Oklahoma 3-0 and 7-2 in the NCAA Super Regionals. The Blue Demons finished with an overall record of 47-13 and went 20-0 in conference play. The squad returns 10 players, while welcoming nine newcomers. Head coach Eugene Lenti returns for his 27th season with the team. Lenti, who has over 900 career victories and 15 postseason appearances to his name, will be inducted into the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) Hall of Fame this year.

USF, picked to finish second in the preseason poll for the second consecutive year, ended the 2007 season with a 44-22 overall record, 15-5 BIG EAST. The Bulls earned the No. 2 seed in the conference championship and lost 5-1 to eventual-winner Louisville in the quarterfinals. The squad returns several starters, including its entire pitching staff.

Louisville, the league's 2007 preseason favorite, was eliminated from NCAA postseason play after losing 6-3 to Michigan and 11-4 to Oregon State in the Ann Arbor Regional. The Cardinals, making their fourth-straight NCAA appearance, defeated the Beavers 8-0 two days prior to their exiting-loss. The squad looks to defend its 2007 conference title, which it earned with a 3-2 win over Notre Dame in the BIG EAST Championship. UofL returns 12 letterwinners and six starters from last year's team. Additionally, coach Sandy Pearsall is seven wins away from notching her 300th victory at Louisville.

Notre Dame, the 2007 BIG EAST Championship runner-up, was selected fourth in the preseason poll. The Irish, who finished 32-24 overall, 13-7 BIG EAST last season, were swept by Illinois State in the NCAA Evanston Regional, losing 2-1 and 3-1. The team beat Wright State 3-0 in the consolation bracket.

Connecticut was chosen to finish fifth by the coaches. The Huskies ended the 2007 season in the same spot in the BIG EAST rankings with an overall record of 22-21, 10-9 in league play. UConn earned the No. 5 seed in the 2007 league championship, but lost 6-0 to Notre Dame in the first round.

St. John's finished sixth in the poll. The Red Storm, who failed to make the 2007 BIG EAST Championship, ended last season 10th in the league with an 18-36 overall record, 7-15 BIG EAST.

Rutgers (20-34 overall, 7-15 BIG EAST) is slotted to finish seventh, while Syracuse (21-31, 9-11) is projected to end the season at eighth place. The Orange finished the 2007 sixth in the league and were eliminated by Louisville in the first round of the BIG EAST Championship.

Pittsburgh (23-35, 8-11) and Seton Hall (15-35, 9-13) complete the top 10 in ninth and 10th place, respectively. The Panthers finished seventh and the Pirates finished eighth in the league last season. Both teams were eliminated in the first round of the 2007 BIG EAST Softball Championship.

Villanova (25-31, 6-14) and Providence (23-24, 6-14) are projected to finish 11th and 12th, respectively.

BIG EAST play is set to begin on March 22, when Seton Hall travels to Queens, N.Y., for a noon doubleheader with St. John's. Louisville will host the 2008 BIG EAST Softball Championship on May 8-10 at Ulmer Stadium. The league's top-eight squads will play for the conference crown. The 2008 Women's College World Series is scheduled for May 29-June 4 at the ASA Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City, Okla.

2008 BIG EAST Preseason Softball Poll

Points 2007 Overall Record 2007 BIG EAST Record 2007 BIG EAST Regular Season Finish

DePaul (9) 116 47-13 20-0 1st

USF (3) 110 44-22 15-5 2nd

Louisville 100 37-25 14-6 3rd

Notre Dame 97 32-24 13-7 4th

Connecticut 69 22-21 10-9 5th

St. John's 56 18-36 7-15 10th

Rutgers 50 20-34 7-15 9th

Syracuse 48 21-31 9-11 6th

Pittsburgh 40 23-35 8-11 7th

Seton Hall 36 15-35 9-13 8th

Villanova 36 25-31 5-17 12th

Providence 34 23-24 6-14 11th

(-) – First-place votes

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