Aug. 14, 2009

Courtesy of Notre Dame

NOTRE DAME, Ind. - The Notre Dame men's soccer team has been selected to win the 2009 BIG EAST Blue Division title according to a vote by the league's head coaches. St. John's was chosen to win the conference's Red Division. Fighting Irish senior forward Bright Dike (Edmond, Okla./Edmond North) was tabbed as the BIG EAST Preseason Offensive Player of the Year.

Notre Dame received 12 first-place votes among the Blue Division squads, while Connecticut garnered three and Georgetown had one vote. The league's 16 head coaches were not permitted to vote for their own teams.

The Fighting Irish are seeking their third straight Blue Division crown. Last season, Notre Dame posted a 12-7-2 mark, including a 7-2-2 record in conference play, en route to garnering the 12th seed for the NCAA Championship.

Notre Dame returns eight starters and 14 letterwinners from the 2008 squad. The Irish bring back 38 of 41 goals from last season, including Dike who led the BIG EAST in goals (12) and total points (29). The forward copped first team all-league and all-region honors in 2008. Dike was one of three unanimous choices on the conference's preseason squad.

Joining Dike on the all-BIG EAST preseason squad is Irish senior midfielder Michael Thomas (Olathe, Kan./St. Thomas Aquinas). Thomas garnered second-team all-league accolades last season as he deposited eight goals to go along with five assists. He was the BIG EAST's leading midfield scorer. Thomas also earned second-team all-region honors last season.

St. John's Joel Gustafsson was selected as the BIG EAST Preseason Defensive Player of the Year, while West Virginia's Zach Johnson is tabbed as the BIG EAST Preseason Goalkeeper of the Year.

The Fighting Irish are tied for 12th in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) preseason poll, which was released on Tuesday. There are a total of five BIG EAST squads that appear in the rankings. St. John's (5), South Florida (11) and Connecticut (T-12th) joined Notre Dame in the top dozen of the poll, while Louisville is 25th.

Notre Dame opens the 2009 campaign at home in its new state-of-the-art Alumni Stadium against Michigan on Tuesday, Sept. 1.

2009 BIG EAST Men's Soccer Preseason Poll
                                     BIG        2008
Blue Division        Points      EAST      Overall     Finish
Notre Dame (12)             110       7-2-2      12-7-2       1st
Connecticut (3)             98        6-3-2      11-5-6       2nd
Georgetown (1)             77        5-3-3      11-5-3       3rd
West Virginia          72        3-4-4       5-9-5       5th
Providence             60        5-5-1       9-7-3       4th
Seton Hall            49        2-5-4       6-8-4       7th
Marquette                 24        1-8-2      3-10-4       8th
Pittsburgh                 22        3-6-2       6-8-4       6th

BIG 2008 Red Division Points EAST Overall Finish St. John's (13) 109 8-1-2 19-3-3 1st USF (1) 92 7-3-1 15-5-3 2nd Louisville (2) 91 5-5-1 11-8-2 4th DePaul 67 5-4-2 9-7-4 3rd Rutgers 42 3-6-2 6-9-3 8th Syracuse 40 4-6-1 8-6-3 T-6th Villanova 36 4-5-2 7-10-2 5th Cincinnati 35 4-6-1 7-10-2 T-6th (-) - Indicates first place votes

2009 Preseason All-BIG EAST Honors & Awards

BIG EAST Offensive Player of the Year Bright Dike, Notre Dame, Sr., F

BIG EAST Defensive Player of the Year Joel Gustafsson, St. John's, Sr., D

BIG EAST Goalkeeper of the Year Zach Johnson, West Virginia, R-Jr., GK

All-BIG EAST Preseason Team Nelson Becerra, St. John's, Sr., M Len Coleman, Georgetown, Sr., D *Bright Dike, Notre Dame, Sr., F *Joel Gustafsson, St. John's, Sr., D Zach Johnson, West Virginia, R-Jr., GK Brayan Martinez, Seton Hall, Jr., M Colin Rolfe, Louisville, So., F *Toni Stahl, Connecticut, Sr., M Michael Thomas, Notre Dame, Sr., M Steffen Vroom, DePaul, Sr., F Hansen Woodruff, Syracuse, Sr., M/F * - unanimous selection