Women's Hoops ready to soar in Big East

Cardinal fans are invited to watch head coach Tom Collen's squad practice, which will be followed by an autograph session, on Saturday afternoon at 1:30 p.m. in Cardinal Arena.

Much like the University of Louisville's football, volleyball and men's basketball programs, the school's women's basketball program, under the direction of third-year head coach Tom Collen, has received it's share of preseason attention as it prepares for it's first season in the Big East Conference.

Among the preseason accolades is a national ranking of 18th by the Women's Basketball News Service, while CBS Sportsline listed the Cardinals just outside their preseason top 25 poll.

"It is great to receive preseason recognition," said U of L head coach Tom Collen, who's team was recently chosen to finish sixth in the rugged Big East Conference. "One of our goals is to be the first Louisville team to break into the Top 25."

The team is definitely on it's way. A 21-9 finish last year, Collen's second straight 20-win season at Louisville, helped the Cardinals reach the NCAA Tournament. However, the move to the new league, which includes other top 25 caliber teams Rutgers, DePaul, Connecticut, Notre Dame, Villanova and West Virginia means new challenges for Collen's squad.

"It's where top 25 type teams and national championship type teams reside," Collen said of the Cardinals new league. "If playing in the Big East gives us that platform to be able to show people how far the University of Louisville has come then it's a great thing. We are excited about it and we recognize that it is going to be a challenge for us. The Big East is arguably the best women's basketball conference in the country."

The increase in competition has had an effect on the ticket office as well, where the number of season tickets sold for the upcoming campaign has already surpassed previous highs.

"We need a tough environment in Freedom Hall," Collen told Inside The Ville. "The bigger the crowd the better. When you play teams like UConn, Notre Dame and Villanova at home you are going to need to have a tough environment to play in. We have to have that from our fans."

Collen said that he expects to see the average home attendence for this year to top 3,000 and approach 5,000. However, he anticipates those numbers to be higher when traditional powers such as UConn and Notre Dame visit The Hall in January.

"I'd hope to see the lower part full for those games," he said. "The sky is the limit as to what the might happen. I'd be disappointed if we didn't have big crowds for those types of games."

Fans can get their first glimpse of Collen's team, which returns four starters from a year ago, including junior forward Jazz Covington - a First Team All-Big East Conference selection - on Saturday, Oct. 29 from 1:00-2:30 p.m. in Cardinal Arena when they conduct an open practice. An autograph session will follow where fans will receive the first copies of the women's basketball poster.

For more information about how to purchase season tickets - or for single game ticket information - call the U of L ticket office at 502.852.5151 or visit UofLSports.com.

Also, be sure to stay logged on to InsideTheVille.com for upcoming information about how you can win tickets to a few select games, including the January 31st contest against Connecticut.

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