Beavers Projected to Finish Fourth in NAC Preseason Poll

Beavers Projected to Finish Fourth in NAC Preseason Poll

UMaine-Farmington is selected to finish fourth this season in the NAC Preseason Poll. 

The defending North Atlantic Conference (NAC) champions of Husson University were predicted to repeat in a preseason poll of head softball coaches. The Eagles collected five first-place votes and a total of 46 points. Thomas finished second with 38 points, and UMaine-Presque Isle (UMPI) was close behind in third with 36 points and one first-place vote.

UMaine-Farmington (UMF) garnered 29 points (fourth place), while NAC-newcomer SUNY Canton collected the remaining first-place vote and a total of 25 points for a fifth-place prediction.

Northern Vermont-Johnson and -Lyndon each collected 11 points and complete the poll tied for sixth place.

Thomas earned the top seed for the 2019 NAC Softball Championship and hosted #2 Husson, #3 UMPI, and #4 UMF in the double-elimination tournament. Led by Pitcher of the Year Jen Jones (Acton, Maine), Rookie of the Year Whitney Bess (Madison, Maine), and Tournament MVP Olivia Smith (Calais, Maine), Husson upset Thomas in the championship game by a final score of 8-0. The Eagles lost a 1-0, 10-inning pitchers' duel with MIT in the first game of the NCAA Division III national tournament, and exited after a second loss to Eastern Nazarene.

The 2020 NAC Softball Championship double-elimination tournament is scheduled for May 1-3, and will be contested at the site of the #1 seed. The NAC Champion will receive the conference automatic qualification bid (AQ) and advance to the NCAA Division III Softball Championship tournament beginning with regional-round games May 8-10.

Early season non-conference games are underway and conference games begin April 10th.

2020 Softball Season Preview

1. Husson - 46 points (5 first-place votes)

The defending NAC Champion Husson Eagles (24-11, 11-1 NAC) will be led by second-year head coach Diann Ramsey. Coach Ramsey brings back 15 returners, including NAC Pitcher of the Year and First Team All-Conference selection, senior Jen Jones (Acton, Maine). Rookie of the Year Whitney Bess (Madison, Maine) is back in the outfield for the Green and Gold while Husson adds six newcomers to the squad to fill the loss of four graduated seniors. The Eagles will continue their powerful presence at the plate as they set their sights on another run in the NAC tournament.

 
   

2. Thomas - 38 points

The 2019 NAC Softball Coach of the Year, Ali Kriegel, enters her second year in the dugout for Thomas (24-10, 11-1 NAC). She returns a strong, young core led by All-Conference players Bailey Dunphy (North Anson, Maine), Kelsey Currier (Cumberland, Maine) and Lauren Guppy (New Sharon, Maine). Coach Kriegel expects her class of first-year players to make an immediate impact on the program. Despite losing four seniors to graduation, the Terriers return a solid core of veterans who plan to return to the playoffs to compete for a NAC Championship.

 
   

3. UMaine-Presque Isle - 36 points (1 first-place vote)

UMaine-Presque Isle (16-15) had a competitive first year in the NAC, finishing 7-5 in conference play and a making a NAC tournament appearance in 2019. First-year head coach Alissa Edwards returns 16 players, including First Team All-Conference shortstop Sarah Duncklee (Kearny, Ariz.) and Second Team All-Conference first baseman Melanee Terry (Moreno Valley, Calif.). Alongside those two offensive leaders, the Owls return sophomore center fielder Jordan Hansen (Phillips, Neb.), who finished last season with a .326 batting average. The Owls also added first-year power hitter Halle Garner (Murray, Utah) and powerhouse pitcher Kylie Vining (Island Falls, Maine) to the roster. Team Captains Delanie Strout (Greene, Maine), Brookelynn Garcia (Torrance, Calif.), Duncklee, and Terry aim to lead the team to their first NAC Championship.

 
   

4. UMaine-Farmington - 29 points

Head coach Kat McKay will lead the Beavers' dugout for the fourth year. UMaine-Farmington (14-20, 6-6 NAC) returns senior pitcher Brianna McGrath (Lyman, N.H.), and senior shortstop and captain Karen Flaherty (Rumford, Maine), along with senior captain Alyssa Dillan (Plymouth, Mass.) at third base, and junior Kayleigh Oberg (Winthrop, Maine) behind the plate. The Beavers will reorganize and be flexible after losing several key seniors to graduation. The team maintains a veteran infield to lead the defense and features new sticks at the plate to spark the offense.

 
   

5. SUNY Canton - 25 points (1 first-place vote)

Lindsey Thayer, a four-time NCAA Division III All-American and the all-time leader in NCAA DIII strike outs, enters her first season as head coach for the Roos. In their second season in the NAC, the Roos return five players who hit north of .300 in 2019, including Selena Tasli (Shirley, N.Y.), Jordan Knapp (Queensbury, N.Y.), Kayla Chavarri (Pawling, N.Y.), Mackenzie Currie (Henrietta, N.Y.) and Sophia Harris (Liverpool, N.Y.). Knapp was a Second Team All-Conference performer during her rookie season, while Chavarri earned eight wins and Alaina Beane added five. SUNY Canton welcomes seven newcomers to the roster including a junior transfer, two sophomores, and four first-years.

 
   

T6. Northern Vermont-Johnson - 11 points

Stacey Fox enters her second year at the helm of the NVU-Johnson softball team. The Badgers come off a 3-25 (2-10 NAC) season with hopes to improve in 2020. The team returns eight players, and with the addition of four newcomers, will make a push for a NAC postseason appearance. The squad features a strong infield and hitting core led by senior infielder Lindsay LaPerle (Bethel, Vt.) and junior Nicole Mooney (Hillsborough, N.H.) on the mound and behind the plate.

 
   

T6. Northern Vermont-Lyndon - 11 points

Kevin Valentine enters his first season as the NVU-Lyndon head coach. He takes over a Hornet team looking to improve upon their 2019 season in which they finished 4-22 overall and 0-12 in NAC play. Key returners include senior shortstop and .306 hitter Cecelia Chamul (Concord, Vt.), junior utility player Cassie Black (Tolland, Conn.), and junior first baseman Madeline DeGroot (Canton, Maine), who hit a team-best .317 a year ago. Junior Rachel Valentine (Clarksdale, Ariz.) and first-year Madison Reardon (Saranac Lake, N.Y.) will head up the pitching staff. The Hornets are a close-knit and hard-working team that embraces the grind and works toward a NAC tournament appearance.