WINTHROP, Mass. – Winners of three straight Great Northeast Athletic Conference Softball Championships, Johnson & Wales University (RI) has received 12 of the 13 first-place votes in the 2018 GNAC Preseason Poll, which was announced on Thursday afternoon. The ledger was voted upon by the league's head coaches.
Saint Joseph's College placed third in the poll with 139 points after going 22-17 overall with 17-5 record in conference play in 2017 under Head Coach Jamie Smyth '92, who is about to begin his 21st season at the helm for the Monks.
The Monks return six starters from last season, including All-Conference honorees Meghan Elliott (Blackstone, Mass.) and Kristal Smith (Pittston, Maine) as well as leading hitters Libby Pomerleau (Limerick, Maine) and Melodie Bailey (Lebanon, Maine).
The Monks open the 2018 season with 10 games in the Sunkissed Games in Kissimmee, Florida, starting with a contest versus Bridgewater (Va.) on March 4th at 1:30 PM.
For the complete poll results, as voted upon by the league's 10 head coaches, please see below.
JWU received 168 points overall in the poll, well clear of second-place Suffolk University, which garnered 150 points and one first-place vote. The two programs went head-to-head for the GNAC title last spring, as JWU was unbeaten in last year's double-elimination tournament before Suffolk forced a do-or-die championship contest with a come-from-behind 3-2 win in Providence, R.I. But the Wildcats were able to earn their third NCAA Tournament berth in as many years with a 15-5, six-inning victory in the final game of the tournament.
JWU went on to fall in a pair of heartbreakers during last year's NCAA Regional at SUNY Cortland, losing to Messiah, 5-2, after having a 2-0 lead in the first inning and the game deadlocked in a tie in the sixth. With the Wildcats facing elimination, they were then downed, 4-3, by Cortland State in a game that was tied in the fifth innning. The Wildcats won one game in both their 2015 and 2016 NCAA Tournament appearances.
Saint Joseph's College of Maine took the fourth spot in the poll with 139 points, one point ahead of fourth-place Albertus Magnus College, which will look forward to its first season at the newly built Shea Softball Complex on campus in New Haven, Conn. The University of Saint Joseph (Conn.) rounded out the top-five in the poll with 98 points.
The No. 6 through No. 8 spots were all close in the voting, as Simmons College received 98 points, Emmanuel College collected 92 points and Norwich University had 90 points. For the complete poll results, please see below.
The final two days of the 2018 GNAC Softball Tournament will be hosted by the No. 1 seed the weekend of May 5-6. The top-two seeds will host a pair of contests on Thursday, May 3 as part of the double-elimination portion of the postseason, while the single-elimination round is scheduled for Tuesday, May 1, hosted by the fifth- and sixth-seeded teams.
2018 GNAC Softball Preseason Poll
1. Johnson & Wales (12) - 168
2. Suffolk (1) - 150
3. Saint Joseph's Maine - 139
4. Albertus Magnus - 138
5. Saint Joseph (CT) - 102
6. Simmons - 98
7. Emmanuel - 92
8. Norwich - 90
9. Mount Ida - 58
10. Regis (Mass.) - 49
11. Rivier - 43
12. Lasell - 37
13. Anna Maria - 19
COURTESY OF GNAC SPORTS INFORMATION OFFICE
Founded in 1995, the Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) is an NCAA Division III association made up of 13 member institutions and over 3,000 student-athletes across the New England region. Each year, the GNAC sponsors and administers 20 championships, while balancing academic integrity, athletic opportunities and community involvement.
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Saint Joseph's College is Maine's only Catholic liberal arts college, providing a supportive, personalized and career-focused education for more than 100 years. From its 474-acre campus on the shores of Sebago Lake, the College offers more than 40 undergraduate programs to a population of approximately 1,000 students. Saint Joseph's College Online provides certificates, undergraduate and advanced degrees for working adults through an online learning program. For more, visit www.sjcme.edu.