Aug. 25, 2009

Courtesy of Big East

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Four BIG EAST field hockey teams have been ranked in the 2009 Kookaburra/NFHCA Division I Preseason Poll.  BIG EAST favorite Syracuse led the Conference with 464 points and a No. 3 ranking, followed by Connecticut (402) at No. 5, Louisville (230) at No. 13, and Providence (57) which earned the final spot in the top-20 list.  Rutgers (9) also received votes. 

Third-ranked Syracuse has five of its top six scorers returning from a 22-2 campaign a year ago, including sophomore Martina Loncarica and junior Lindsey Conrad.  Loncarica racked up 65 points last season on 17 goals and a league-leading 31 assists, while Conrad combined for 51 points from 21 goals and nine assists.  Syracuse shared the regular season title with Connecticut and Louisville last season and earned the BIG EAST Championship crown.  The Orange advanced to the NCAA Final Four before falling to Wake Forest in the seminfinals.

No. 5 Connecticut is coming off a 17-4 season, including a 5-1 mark in BIG EAST action. UConn earned its seventh consecutive trip to the NCAA Championship.  The Huskies return third team All-American junior forward Melissa Gonzalez.  Gonzalez tallied 24 points for Connecticut last season and is the team’s leading returning scorer.  The Huskies’ defense maintains stability in goal where senior Andrea Mainiero returns for her fourth season in the cage.  As a junior, Mainiero ranked third nationally in goals against average at 0.95 and sixth in save percentage at .792.

No. 13 Louisville finished the 2008 season with a 14-7 mark and a trip to the NCAA Championship for the second time in program history.  The Cardinals return unanimous All-BIG EAST Preseason selection Nicole Youman.  The junior midfield/back tallied a team-leading 27 points on eight goals and 11 assists in 2008.  BIG EAST Preseason Co-Defensive Player of the Year senior goalkeeper Heather Bustanoby finished last season ranked second in conference contests in goals against average (1.00) and tied for first in save percentage (.812) and shutouts (two). Head Coach Pam Bustin garnered 2008 BIG EAST Coach of the Year accolades following her 12th year at the helm and eighth straight year of top-20 rankings.  Louisville finished 2008 at No. 13 in the final STX/NFHCA Division I National Coaches Poll.   

No. 20 Providence concluded last season with its third consecutive trip to the BIG EAST Championship.  The Friars return their top five scorers from a 12-9 campaign in 2008, including third team All-America selection Nellie Poulin.  Poulin was recently named BIG EAST Preseason Offensive Player of the Year after tallying 33 points on 16 goals and one assist last season.  BIG EAST Preseason Co-Defensive Player of the Year, goalkeeper Rachel Chamberlain, returns for her senior year with the Friars after finishing 2008 ranked second in the conference in saves (110) and saves per game (5.24), and tied for first in shutouts (two) in conference games.

Rutgers enters 2009 coming off of its most successful season in over a decade.  The Scarlet Knight’s six losses in 2008 were the fewest by a Rutgers squad since 1986, and the 14 wins mark the highest total since 1997.

The 2009 Kookabura/NFHCA Division I Preseason Poll was voted on by 29 coaches throughout the country.  The first regular season poll will be released on Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2009.