[BIG EAST PREVIEW] What a difference a year made: In 2010, Notre Dame won the NCAA women's championship and four Big East teams reached the third round. In
2011, Notre Dame was ousted in the first round, and only one Big East team, Louisville, advanced as far as the third round. And in 2012? Notre Dame, thanks to its much-heralded freshman class, begins
the year as our team to beat in the Big East slightly ahead of Marquette ...
The Irish and Golden Eagles were picked as divisional favorites in the 2012 Big East preseason women’s soccer poll.
Notre Dame went only 6-3-2 in conference play and 10-8-3 overall but kept alive its streak of having made the NCAA Tournament in 19 consecutive seasons, the second-longest active streak (and third-longest all-time) in tournament history.
"None of us were pleased with how last year turned out," Notre Dame coach Randy Waldrum said, "and we're working hard to get back to the high level of success we expect to reach every year."
Notre Dame will be led by junior Mandy Laddish, who was named to the U.S. under-20 national team that will compete in Japan for the 2012 U-20 Women's World Cup.
The Irish also feature the league's top recruit in Cari Roccaro, who is also headed to Japan with the U-20s as a defender. The Long Island product heads the country's deepest recruiting class.
The big question will be, who will replace Melissa Henderson, fourth on the Notre Dame all-time scoring list with 70 career goals?
Marquette won the 2011 American Division regular-season title last year and made its fourth straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament.
The Golden Eagles will be led by Ally Miller, who helped lead them to a league-best 13 shutouts in 2011, and Maegan Kelly, the league’s top returning scorer with 14 goals and 12 assists.
"Our team appreciates the respect shown to us by coaches across the league," Marquette coach Markus Roeders said. "It puts a greater target on our backs and we will continue to learn how to live with it. A new year brings new opportunities and we surely won't take any Big East opponents lightly."
Another contender will be defending champion Louisville, which returns Christine Exeter, the 2011 Big East Offensive Player of the Year with 14 goals and three assists. Like Laddish and Roccaro, Exeter will be in Japan but will represent Canada at the U-20 world championships.
Back from the Olympics, where she started for Canada, will be Rutgers redshirt Jonelle Filigno, who led the Scarlet Knights with 13 points before an injury ended her season.
BIG EAST IN BRIEF:
2011 REGULAR SEASON. American -- 1. Marquette (10-1-0), 2. Syracuse (6-5-0); National: Louisville (8-1-2), Georgetown (8-3-0).
2011 TOURNAMENT. West Virginia beat Louisville 2-0 in the final.
2011 NCAA TOURNAMENT. Louisville lost in third round, Marquette lost in second round, Notre Dame, West Virginia lost in first round.
2012 FAVORITE. Notre Dame.
2012 CONTENDERS. Marquette, Louisville.
2012 CREAM OF THE CROP. F Christine Exeter, Louisville, jr.; D Ally Miller, Marquette, sr.; F Jonelle Filigno, Rutgers, jr.; M Maegan Kelly, Marquette, jr.; M Mandy Laddish, Notre Dame, jr.; Jami Kranich, Villanova, jr.
2012 TOP NEWCOMERS. F/M Cari Roccaro, Notre Dame; D Brittany Von Rueden, Notre Dame; D Katie Naughton, Notre Dame, F Anna Maria Gilbertson, Notre Dame; F Glory Williams, Notre Dame; D Erica Sousa, Rutgers.