NEW YORK - Georgetown and Marquette, two teams which shared the BIG EAST regular-season crown a season ago and appear in the NSCAA Continental Preseason Top 25, finished in a dead heat at the top of the 2014 BIG EAST Preseason Coaches' Poll conducted by the league office and announced Tuesday. The Hoyas and Golden Eagles, who both advanced to the NCAA Tournament Third Round in 2013, finished with 75 points, with GU taking five first-place votes and MU collecting four.
The two programs also split the three major awards. Georgetown's Brandon Allen was named the Preseason Offensive Player of the Year, while teammate Tomas Gomez was tabbed Preseason Goalkeeper of the Year. Marquette's Axel Sjöberg was named Preseason Defensive Player of the Year.
Creighton took third in the poll with 63 points on the strength of the last remaining first-place vote, while St. John's followed in fourth with 54 points and Providence nabbed fifth with 48. Butler placed sixth with 43 points, followed by Xavier (38), Villanova (23), Seton Hall (19) and DePaul (12).
Voting was conducted by the league's 10 head coaches who could not vote for their own student-athletes or teams.
Allen led the BIG EAST with 27 points a season ago while ranking second with 11 goals and tied for seventh with five assists. A second-team NSCAA/Continental Tire All-American, Allen will look to provide offense in the wake of the graduation of Steve Neumann (10 goals, 26 points in 2013), last season's BIG EAST Offensive Player of the Year and the fourth overall pick in the MLS Draft.
Coming off a performance in which he was named the BIG EAST Tournament Most Outstanding Defensive Player, Sjöberg enters 2014 as one of the nation's 10 best defenders according to TopDrawerSoccer.com. In addition to earning first-team All-BIG EAST honors last season, Sjöberg was an NSCAA All-Region and Academic All-District selection.
It might seem like a tall order, but Gomez is hoping to top what was a stellar 2013 campaign that saw him set a school record with 12 clean sheets while posting a 13-5-2 ledger with a paltry 0.44 goals-against average. He was a first-team All-BIG EAST selection and named BIG EAST Co-Goalkeeper of the Year, and finished fourth in Division I in GAA and fifth in save percentage (.882).
Allen and Sjöberg were both unanimous selections to the Preseason All-BIG EAST Team. After sharing the regular-season crown with Marquette, Georgetown (14-5-2 overall, 6-2-1 BIG EAST in 2013) saw its quest for its first BIG EAST Tournament title end in the semifinals in a loss to Providence on penalty kicks. Allen and Gomez head up a list of four GU student-athletes who earned Preseason All-BIG EAST accolades that includes forward Alex Muyl and defender Joshua Yaro, both sophomores. Muyl finished tied for the league lead with five assists in nine BIG EAST regular-season matches in 2013. Allen, Muyl and Yaro were all named to the Hermann Trophy Watch list two weeks ago.
Marquette (13-6-2, 6-2-1) is coming off its first BIG EAST Tournament championship and a third-round appearance in the NCAA Tournament. The Golden Eagles have enjoyed a renaissance in Milwaukee under the watchful eye of head coach Louis Bennett, who enters his ninth season at MU. In the last three seasons, Marquette has won 38 matches overall and a league-best 18 in BIG EAST play. The Golden Eagles' placed three on the Preseason All-BIG EAST Team, with C. Nortey and Louis Bennett II joining Sjöberg. Nortey, a unanimous pick, was recently named to the Hermann Trophy Watch List and scored six goals in nine BIG EAST games and 10 in 21 overall last season, while Bennett II is coming off a 13-point season and an appearance on the BIG EAST All-Tournament Team.
Creighton (9-9-2, 4-4-1) started 2013 with four straight victories but didn't post consecutive wins the rest of the way, so they're looking for a bounce back season in Omaha. The good news for CU - and perhaps bad for the rest of the BIG EAST - is it has plenty of returning talent, including redshirt senior keeper Alex Bolowich (7-7-1, 1.32 GAA) along with Preseason All-BIG EAST picks junior Timo Pitter (7g, 4a) and senior Jose Ribas (1g, 6a). Elmar Bolowich enters his fourth season in Omaha and 26th overall as a collegiate head coach.
Another program looking to rebound in 2014 is St. John's (11-6-2, 3-4-1). The Red Storm missed out on the BIG EAST Tournament for the first time since 1990 but still earned an at-large berth to the NCAA Tournament. Under the watchful eye of 24th-year head coach Dr. Dave Masur, the Red Storm will be led by unanimous Preseason All-BIG EAST selection and Hermann Trophy Watch List member senior Tim Parker, a first-team All-BIG EAST and NSCAA All-Northeast Region honoree. Parker anchored a defense that posted nine clean sheets in 2013.
Providence (12-6-4, 6-3-0) was perhaps the BIG EAST's largest surprise last season. After checking in seventh in the 2013 preseason poll, the Friars qualified for the BIG EAST Tournament and advanced to the championship game before bowing 3-2 to Marquette in an exciting final. The Friars return one of the BIG EAST's young stars in sophomore Julian Gressel, a Preseason All-BIG EAST selection who notched a team-best 14 points. Craig Stewart enters his third season as head coach.
Butler (11-8-1, 4-5-0) boasted a formidable 1-2 scoring punch last season in BIG EAST Rookie of the Year David Goldsmith (12g, 2a) and Zach Steinberger (6g, 4a), and both were named to the Preseason All-BIG EAST team. The Bulldogs had tremendous early-season momentum with an 8-2-1 start and a 2-0-0 BIG EAST record, but they dropped five of their last seven conference matches and bowed out in the BIG EAST Semifinals. Butler is under the tutelage of fourth-year head coach Paul Snape.
Xavier (10-7-2, 6-3-0) posted a fourth consecutive double-digit win total in 2013 under head coach Andy Fleming, now entering his fifth season in Cincinnati, and qualified for its first BIG EAST Tournament. Preseason All-BIG EAST pick Will Walker (5g, 2a) will try to make up for the graduation of twin brother Matt, who scored 25 points en route to second-team All-BIG EAST honors. The Musketeers are also without 2013 Defensive Player of the Year Nick Hagglund, the 10th pick in the MLS Draft and now playing with Toronto FC.
Picked eighth, Villanova (8-9-1, 3-6-0) looks to return to the BIG EAST Tournament after missing out in '13. The Wildcats return three of their top four scorers from a year ago in Chris Hill, Padraic McCullaugh and Sean Sheridan. Sheridan is one of seven players who saw action in all 18 games last season for head coach Tom Carlin, who is entering his seventh season at VU.
Third-year Seton Hall (7-9-2, 3-6-0) head coach Gerson Echeverry is looking for another big season from Preseason All-BIG EAST pick Samuel Geiler, who enjoyed a splendid rookie campaign last season with eight goals and 20 points in 18 starts for the Pirates and a six-point ledger in BIG EAST matches. Echeverry will also rely on youthful experience in goal after Julian Splinder played all but 154 minutes last season as a freshman.
DePaul (5-11-2, 1-7-1) aims to return to the BIG EAST Tournament for the first time since making six straight appearances from 2006-11. Head coach Craig Blazer, now in his 14th season in Chicago, has four of his top six scorers back, including team leader Art Garza (4-3-11 in 18 games). The Blue Demons were on the wrong side of luck last season with four overtime losses.
The 2014 season kicks off Friday, Aug. 29 for all 10 teams. Providence visits Bryant at 3 p.m. in the opener, with nine more contests scattered throughout the rest of the afternoon and evening. Once again BIG EAST teams have created a challenging non-league schedule with 28 matches against 2013 NCAA Tournament squads and 31 versus those which finished in the top 50 of the NCAA RPI. The nine-match BIG EAST schedule begins Sept. 27.
The top six finishers in the regular-season standings will qualify for the BIG EAST Tournament. Following first-round matches on campus sites Tuesday, Nov. 11, the semifinals and final of the BIG EAST Championship presented by New York Life will take place Friday and Sunday, Nov. 14 and 16 at PPL Park in Chester, Pa.
2014 Preseason Coaches' Poll
Georgetown - 75 points (5 first-place votes)
Marquette - 75 (4)
Creighton - 63 (1)
St. John's - 54
Providence - 48
Butler - 43
Xavier - 38
Villanova - 23
Seton Hall - 19
DePaul - 12
Preseason Offensive Player of the Year - Brandon Allen, Georgetown, Jr., F
Preseason Defensive Player of the Year - Axel Sjöberg, Marquette, R-Jr., D
Preseason Goalkeeper of the Year - Tomas Gomez, Georgetown, Sr.
Preseason All-BIG EAST *
Brandon Allen, Georgetown, Jr., F ^
Louis Bennett II, Marquette, So., M
Samuel Geiler, Seton Hall, So., M
David Goldsmith, Butler, So., F
Tomas Gomez, Georgetown, Sr., GK
Julian Gressel, Providence, So., F
Alex Muyl, Georgetown, So., F
C. Nortey, Marquette, R-Jr., F ^
Tim Parker, St. John's, Sr., D ^
Timo Pitter, Creighton, Jr., M
Jose Ribas, Creighton, Sr., D
Axel Sjöberg, Marquette, R-Jr., D ^
Zach Steinberger, Butler, Sr., M
Will Walker, Xavier, R-Sr., M
Joshua Yaro, Georgetown, So., D
* - Five forwards and five midfielders because of ties in the voting ^ - unanimous selection,p>