WINTHROP, Mass. – The Norwich University softball team has been selected to finish sixth in the Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) Preseason Coaches Poll released on Thursday.
The Cadets return nine players from last year's 15-17 squad that also went 15-7 in GNAC play and finished fourth in the regular season standings. NU dropped its first two GNAC Tournament games to finish tied for fifth.
Norwich returns two GNAC All-Conference selections from last year in sophomores Rachel Johnson (Stockbridge, Vt.) and Emily Oliver (Sagamore Hills, Ohio).
Norwich opens the 2017 campaign on March 13 vs. Western New England at the Spring Games in Leesburg and Clermont, Fla. The Cadets will play seven other games while in Florida over spring break before returning back to Vermont to travel to Middlebury on March 21.
Back-to-back GNAC Softball Champions, Johnson & Wales University (RI) received 10 of a possible 12 first-place votes to take the top spot in the annual preseason poll, as voted upon by the league's head coaches.
The Wildcats, who earned an NCAA Tournament win over Williams last May, garnered 140 points in the ledger and will open up their season next Tuesday, February 28 in Clermont, Fla. They return a good portion of their roster, including senior Emily Gorecki and junior Jennifer Corona, who were named Fastpitch News preseason All-Americans last month.
Suffolk University, which has won each of the last two GNAC regular-season titles, finished second in the poll with 131 points and two first-place votes. The league's No. 1 Tournament seed two years running looks forward to a 10-game slate in Arizona from March 11-16.
Emmanuel College finished third in the poll behind JWU and Suffolk with 109 points, as first-year head coach Kelsea Cheney's squad will be in Clermont, Fla. for 10 games beginning March 5. The Saints advanced to the GNAC Championship contest against JWU last May.
To round out the top-five, Saint Joseph's College of Maine was fourth with 102 points, while Albertus Magnus College finished in the fifth slot with 90 points.
Norwich is sixth with 87 points, followed by Simmons College with 78 points and University of Saint Joseph (Conn.) with 67 points.
Finishing out the rest of the poll was Mount Ida College, Lasell College, Rivier University and Anna Maria College.
The GNAC Tournament will get underway with first-round, single-elimination on Tuesday, May 2. The No. 1 and No. 2 seeds will host double-elimination action on Friday, May 5, with the top seed hosting the remainder of the bracket May 6-7.
Founded in 1995, the Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) is an NCAA Division III association made up of 12 member institutions and over 3,000 student-athletes across the New England region. Each year, the GNAC sponsors and administers 17 championships, while balancing academic integrity, athletic opportunities and community involvement.
2017 GNAC Softball Preseason Coaches' Poll
1. Johnson & Wales (10) - 140
2. Suffolk (2) - 131
3. Emmanuel - 109
4. Saint Joseph's of Maine - 102
5. Albertus Magnus - 90
6. Norwich - 87
7. Simmons - 78
8. St. Joseph (Conn.) - 67
9. Mount Ida - 50
10. Lasell - 35
11. Rivier - 30
12. Anna Maria - 17