As you may recall, seven of the schools in the Big East separated from their league from last year, resulting in the remaining schools renaming themselves the American Athletic Conference. Part of this separation agreement led to the Big East continuing to house all of the AAC teams that wished to play men's and/or women's lacrosse. Thus, the membership of the Big East women's lacrosse league for the 2014 season looks like this:
Cincinnati, Connecticut, Georgetown, Louisville, Marquette, Rutgers, Temple, and Villanova.
On behalf of Georgetown, Marquette, and Villanova, I'd like to humbly request that the other seven schools in the Big East think about starting lacrosse programs, particularly because Rutgers (Big 10) and Louisville (ACC) will be departing next season. Temple, of course, is a newcomer to the Big East after playing last season in the Atlantic 10.
Missing from the list is 2013 Big East members Syracuse, Notre Dame, and Loyola (MD). The Orange and the Irish have departed for the Atlantic Coast Conference with the rest of their sports, and Loyola has left for the Patriot League under the same situation as Syracuse and Notre Dame. The departures of these three teams make picking preseason teams slightly complicated. Syracuse, Notre Dame, and Loyola were three of the five teams in the Big East that qualified for the NCAA tournament last year, and they finished the season with a combined record of 41-18. The Orange had the Offensive and Defensive Player of the Year in 2013, and the three teams put 11 players on the all-conference team, with four of them as unanimous selections.
So it's trimmed down the number of obvious candidates for this year's preseason awards. But we carry on.
Offensive Player of the Year: Nikki Boltja, Louisville - This was an easy choice. Boltja leads the players on the returning squads with 3.71 goals and 4.73 points per game last season.
Defensive Player of the Year: Lauren Kahn, Connecticut - This was slightly complicated. The majority of the top returning players are offensive, so I had to think about this one. Kahn was named 2013 Midfielder of the Year, and it was largely due to grabbing 2.56 ground balls per game, which has her as the leader amongst all returning players.
2014 All-Big East Team
Meg Bell, M, Cincinnati
Nikki Boltja, A, Louisville
Claire Costanza, A, Marquette
Adrianne Devine, D, Georgetown
Hollie DiMuro, D, Rutgers
Kelyn Freedman, M, Georgetown
Jackie Froccaro, A, Villanova
Lauren Kahn, M, Connecticut
Katrina Martinelli, A, Rutgers
Kaylin Morissette, M, Louisville
Jessica Mucci, A, Villanova
Shannon Nee, GK, Connecticut
Monica Negron, D, Louisville
Kacey Pippit, A, Connecticut
Rachel Schwaab, A, Temple
Caroline Tarzian, A, Georgetown
Here's how I compiled this list (and don't ask why there's 16 players on the team, that's just what the Big East has done in the past): It's everyone who was named to the Big East First and Second Teams last year, plus the top scorers from last year as well.
That didn't get me to 16 players, so there are a couple of additions made as solid guesses. Notable amongst that group for this site is Claire Costanza. Officially, Marquette did not participate as a member of the Big East last season, but they were scheduled as if they were a member of the conference, playing each team and splitting the schedule evenly between home and road games. That makes all of Marquette's statistics from last year valid to compare to the rest of the league, and amongst teams returning to the Big East, Costanza had the third highest assists average at 1.29 per game.
Top Four Teams:
There's a lot of Hoyas and Huskies in that all-conference team, plus they're coming off NCAA tournament appearances, so Georgetown and Connecticut are clearly the top two teams. Louisville was the only other team in the Big East with more than one league win last year, so they get the third slot. For the fourth slot, I had to choose between three teams (Rutgers, Cincinnati, Villanova) that went 1-7 in conference last year, a team (Temple) that went 9-8 overall and 4-3 in the Atlantic 10 but was dominated by seniors, and a second year program (Marquette) that went winless against Big East competition last year. So, sure, we'll go with Rutgers.