PROVIDENCE, R.I. – The University of Louisville has been selected as the favorite in the 2012 BIG EAST Volleyball Preseason Coaches’ Poll. For the second consecutive season and fourth time in five years (2008, ‘09, ‘11, ‘12) the Cardinals were selected to win the league’s regular-season title, this year receiving 168 points and 12 first-place votes. Marquette was picked second, edging last year’s BIG EAST Championship runner-up Notre Dame, which was selected third. The votes were cast by the league’s 14 head coaches, who were not permitted to vote for their own teams.
Louisville (24-9, 13-1 BIG EAST) captured its first ever BIG EAST regular season title in 2011, posting a 13-1 conference mark. The Cardinals were the preseason favorites last season and reached the BIG EAST Championship semifinals before falling short to Notre Dame. Head Coach Anne Kordes returns for her second season and looks for continued success after an impressive 2011 campaign that featured an NCAA Tournament berth. Also returning to the squad is the unanimous BIG EAST Preseason Player of the Year and reigning BIG EAST Player of the Year, senior Lola Arslanbekova. Arslanbekova led the conference in kills last season with 576 and her 4.88 kills per set ranked third in the nation. The senior outside-hitter also ranked among the leaders in points, averaging 5.41 per set to rank fourth nationally. Her stellar season earned her unanimous BIG EAST First Team honors, AVCA Third Team All-America laurels and an AVCA All-Northeast Region Team selection. Joining her will be All-BIG EAST Preseason Team selections senior Gwen Rucker and junior Emily Juhl. Juhl received BIG EAST First Team honors and was an AVCA All-Northeast Region honorable mention last season as a sophomore. Louisville looks to make its eighth BIG EAST Championship title appearance since joining the league in 2005. The Cardinals have claimed the championship four times.
Since the inception of round-robin play in 1990, 20 of the last 22 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 15 have taken the regular-season title. Teams have won both the regular-season title and BIG EAST Championship 14 times, most recently St. John’s in 2007.
Marquette (24-11, 12-2 BIG EAST) was selected to finish second behind the Cardinals with 150 points and one first place vote. The 2011 BIG EAST Coach of the Year, Bond Shymansky, will rely on veteran leadership from senior Danielle Carlson and redshirt-senior Holly Mertens. Carlson, a First Team All-BIG EAST honoree and unanimous All-BIG EAST Preseason Team selection, led the conference last season with a .385 hitting percentage. The junior was also an AVCA All-America honorable mention in 2011. The Golden Eagles amassed a 12-2 conference record last year and earned a trip to the NCAA Championship.
Claiming the number three spot in the preseason poll was Notre Dame (17-13, 8-6 BIG EAST) with 140 total points. The Fighting Irish earned a spot in the BIG EAST title game in 2011 after knocking off the No. 1 seed in the semifinals. Sophomore Jeni Houser led the squad to the title match en route to 2011 All-Tournament Team honors. Houser’s impressive freshman season earned her Second Team All-BIG EAST honors and a 2012 All-BIG EAST Preseason Team selection.
The reigning BIG EAST Champion, Cincinnati (27-10, 12-2 BIG EAST) was picked to finish fourth with 139 total votes and one first place vote. First year head coach Molly Alvey will be without the 2011 Most Outstanding Player of the BIG EAST Championship, Missy Harpenau. However, the Bearcats do return All-BIG EAST First Team selection Jordanne Scott for her senior season. Scott ranked fourth in the league last year with a .319 hitting percentage and was named to the AVCA All-Northeast Region Team. She was a unanimous 2012 All-BIG EAST Preseason pick.
Senior Samantha Hinz and junior Lindsay McCabe of Syracuse, junior Monica Wignot of Pittsburgh and sophomores Valerie El Houssine of USF and Shelby Manthorpe of Seton Hall were also named to the All-BIG EAST Preseason team.
The volleyball season will start on Aug. 24 with every team playing a nonconference opponent prior to league play. BIG EAST play begins with a 14-match opening weekend on Sept. 21-23. The BIG EAST’s 14 volleyball teams play every league school once and two schools twice for a 15-game schedule. The top eight finishers in the BIG EAST standings, based on winning percentage, advance to the BIG EAST Volleyball Championship.
First-round action of the BIG EAST Volleyball Championship will begin on Nov. 16. The event spans three days and is single elimination. The championship game will take place on Nov. 18 and the tournament champion will receive the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA’s 32nd Annual Division I Women’s Volleyball Championship.
B2012 BIG EAST Preseason Coaches’ Poll
BIG 2011 BIG EAST
School Points EAST Overall Finish
1. Louisville (12) 168 13-1 24-9 1st
2. Marquette (1) 150 12-2 24-11 3rd
3. Notre Dame 140 8-6 17-13 T-4th
4. Cincinnati (1) 139 12-2 27-10 T-2nd
5. Syracuse 112 8-6 19-12 T-4th
6. Pittsburgh 96 7-7 18-15 T-8th
7. Seton Hall 88 8-6 17-13 T-4th
8. Villanova 83 8-6 17-13 T-4th
9. USF 75 7-7 12-16 T-8th
10. Connecticut 72 4-10 14-15 12th
11. Georgetown 60 6-8 14-13 10th
12. St. John’s 33 1-13 10-21 15th
13. DePaul 31 3-11 7-22 T-13th
14. Rutgers 27 3-11 10-21 T-13th
(-) – first-place votes
2012 BIG EAST Volleyball Preseason Awards
BIG EAST Preseason Player of the Year
* Lola Arslanbekova, Louisville, Sr., OH
All-BIG EAST Preseason Team
* Jordanne Scott, Cincinnati, Sr., MB/RS
* Lola Arslanbekova, Louisville, Sr., OH
* Emily Juhl, Louisville, Jr., OH
Gwen Rucker, Louisville, Sr., MH
* Danielle Carlson, Marquette Sr., MH
Holly Mertens, Marquette, RS-Sr., RS
Jeni Houser, Notre Dame, So., RS
Monica Wignot, Pittsburgh, Jr., OH
Shelby Manthorpe, Seton Hall, So, S
Samantha Hinz, Syracuse, Sr., MB
Lindsay McCabe, Syracuse, Jr., MB
Valerie El Houssine, USF, So., OH
* - unanimous selection