Senior middle blocker Lauren Brewster of Notre Dame was selected as the BIG EAST Preseason Player of the Year and headlines a list of 13 players who were earned All-BIG EAST Preseason Team honors.
Louisville, which garnered 12 first-place votes, along with Cincinnati, DePaul, Marquette and USF will be competing for the first time in the BIG EAST. The addition of these five schools makes the BIG EAST the largest NCAA Division I women's volleyball conference in the nation with 15 member institutions.
The Cardinals return five starters, including a league-high three members of the All-BIG EAST Preseason Team, from a squad that finished 30-3, 13-0 in Conference USA in 2004. Last season, UL was ranked No. 16 nationally in the final USA Today/CSTV and AVCA Coaches Polls and won the Conference USA regular season and tournament titles. Jennifer Hoffman (Sr., MB), Lena Ustymenko (Sr., OH) and Anastasia Yartseva (Jr., OH) hope to lead UL to new heights in 2005.
Notre Dame (21-9, 9-1 BIG EAST) received three first-place votes and is picked to finish second. Brewster and Lauren Kelbley (Sr., OH) will lead the Fighting Irish as it looks to retain its title as BIG EAST Champion. Brewster has proven to be one of the premier players in the nation as she earned AVCA All-America Third Team honors last season. Kelbley was named a preseason all-conference honoree after earning All-BIG EAST Second Team honors a year ago. ND has been a mainstay near the top of the BIG EAST standings with a 107-6 regular season record in conference play since joining the BIG EAST 11 years ago.
Pittsburgh (21-11, 8-2 BIG EAST) is penciled in third. The Panthers and All-BIG EAST Preseason Team members Diana Andreyko (So., OH), Megan McGrane (Sr, Lib.) and Gini Ullery (Sr., OH) will work to fill the shoes of 2004 BIG EAST Player of the Year Megan Miller. Pitt will look to return to the conference championship match for the third consecutive season. The Panthers won the 2003 title before finishing as the conference runner-up and earning an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament last season.
Cincinnati and Marquette are picked fourth and fifth respectively. Both teams posted 20-win seasons and finished tied for second in Conference USA last season with 10-3 records.
Junior middle blocker Myanna Hellsten (Cincinnati) and senior outside hitter Theresa Coughlin (Marquette) were selected as preseason all-conference players.
Kristen Conway (Sr., OH) and Kelly Duan (Sr., RS/MB) of Syracuse and Kristina Fabris (So., MB/RS) of USF round out the list of All-BIG EAST Preseason Team members.
BIG EAST action is slated to begin with four league matchups set to take place on Sept. 23.
The 2005 BIG EAST Championship will be hosted by Louisville at the Kentucky International Convention Center. The top eight teams, according to league records, will participate in a single-elimination tournament to be held Nov. 18-20. The championship game will be broadcast by CSTV.
2005 BIG EAST Preseason Poll
1 Louisville (12)
2 Notre Dame (3)
8 West Virginia
10 South Florida
13 Seton Hall
14 St. John's
Pre-Season Team (First Place Votes)
Diana Andreyko, So., OH, Pittsburgh
Lauren Brewster, Sr., MB, Notre Dame
Kristen Conway, Sr., OH, Syracuse
Theresa Coughlin, Sr., OH, Marquette
Kelly Duan, Sr., RS/MB, Syracuse*
Kristina Fabris, So., MB/RS, USF
Myanna Hellsten, Jr., MB, Cincinnati
Jennifer Hoffman, Sr., MB, Louisville*
Lena Ustymenko, Sr., OH, Louisville*
Lauren Kelbley, Sr., OH/MB, Notre Dame*
Megan McGrane, Sr., Lib., Pittsburgh
Gini Ullery, Sr., OH, Pittsburgh
Anastasia Yartseva, Jr., OH, Louisville*
^Due to a tie in voting, an extra member has been added to the preseason team