Castleton Softball Voted Preseason Favorite in 2017 NAC Coaches' Poll
After earning their first-ever North Atlantic Conference (NAC) Softball Title last season, the Castleton Spartans have claimed the top spot on the 2017 NAC preseason coaches' poll. The defending champions earned four of the seven first-place votes for a total of 44 points, while Husson was selected second garnering the remaining three first-place votes for a total of 40 points.
New England College and 2016 runner-up Thomas tied for third with 35 points apiece, while the University of Maine at Farmington placed fifth with 19 points, Johnson State took sixth with 15 points, and Lyndon rounded out the poll in seventh with eight points.
Voting for the preseason poll was conducted among the league's head softball coaches.
2017 NAC Softball Preseason Coaches' Poll
|Team||Points (First Place Votes)|
|T3.||New England College
The top four teams in the 2017 poll competed in the NAC four-team Championship Tournament last season. Castleton claimed the top seed and hosting rights for the 2016 tournament after finishing the regular season with a 10-2 record in NAC play. Thomas claimed the No. 2 seed after going 9-3, while New England College finished 8-4 for the No. 3 seed and Husson ended 2016 with a 7-5 conference mark to claim the No. 4 seed.
The 2016 tournament saw the top two seeds hold in Games 1 and 2, as the top-seeded Spartans claimed a 2-1 victory over the Eagles and the Terriers earned a 16-2 five-inning win over the Pilgrims. Game 3 saw Husson eliminate NEC from postseason play with a 3-0 victory and Castleton gave Thomas its first loss of the tournament in Game 4, 6-1.
Day 2 of the tournament saw the Terriers advance to the championship round after eliminating the Eagles with a 6-1 victory. Castleton earned the NAC softball title with a 3-1 win over Thomas to earn the Spartans' their first-ever NAC softball championship.
The Spartans went on to participate in the NCAA Division III Softball Tournament after earning the NAC's automatic bid. In the opening round of the regional tournament, Castleton fell 4-2 to No. 15 Rowan, a team that finished third overall in the 2016 national tournament. The Spartans rebounded with their first-ever NCAA win, as they defeated Keuka 9-1 in five innings. Unfortunately, Castleton then fell 10-2 in six innings to Cortland to end their run in the regional.
Throughout the next two weeks all seven NAC softball teams will kick off their quest for the 2017 conference title. The top four teams in the NAC regular-season standings will qualify for the conference tournament, which gets underway Friday, May 5, and will continue through Sunday, May 7.
2017 NAC Softball Previews
**For more information on each team, click the school name to be directed to the softball section of each school's website.
1. Castleton (21-13, 10-2 NAC) will look to remain among the top teams in the conference in 2017, one year after recording the programs first-ever NCAA Tournament win. Head coach Eric Ramey, in his seventh season overall at the helm of the Spartans, returns six players from last year's NAC Championship squad, while 10 freshman join the team. Castleton's ace, Kayla Wood (Dummerston, Vt.), is back for her senior season after helping Castleton to a NAC title and NCAA berth with a 9-4 record and three saves. Also back are junior lead-off hitter Timi Carone (Castleton, Vt.; pictured right), who earned First Team All-Conference honors in 2016, and sophomore Tori Swaine (Oakdale, N.Y.), who earned NAC Rookie of the Week four times. Taylor Paquette (Vergennes, Vt.) returns as the Spartans' No. 2 pitcher, while Sami Carlo (Schaghticoke, N.Y.) will provide veteran presence up the middle at second base.
2. Husson (15-25, 7-5 NAC) will be bringing a young team to the field with 11 freshmen. Guided by third-year head coach Terren Allen the Eagles will see nine players return to the roster. Coming into this season, Husson will turn to seniors, catcher Casey Lopes (New Bedford, Mass.) and second baseman Nicole Andrade (New Bedford, Mass.), to lead the team offensively. Three sophomore pitchers will be returning along with senior Alannah Healy (Brockton, Mass.; pictured right) who posted 89 strikeouts last season.
T3. Thomas (18-19, 9-3 NAC) enters the 2017 season under ninth year and 2016 NAC Coach of the Year, Terry Parlin. Key returners for the Terriers are seniors Korrie Laren (Blackstone, Mass.; pictured right), Courtney Veilleux (Sidney, Maine), and Madison Bentz (Algonquin, Ill.). Laren appeared in 33 games with a .337 (34-for-101) batting average last season, while posting 32 RBI, seven doubles, and six homeruns. Veilleux was third on the squad with her .352 (31-for-88) average, along with 24 RBI, seven doubles, and two homeruns. Bentz contributed with a .337 average, four doubles, and two triples. The Terriers also return sophomores Katie Taylor (Lebanon, Maine) and 2016 NAC Rookie of the Year, Lexi Colpack (Franklin, N.H.). Taylor and Colpack each batted a strong .362 last season to lead the team. Thomas will look to use a strong offense to make its way back to the NAC Tournament after finishing as the 2016 runner-up.
5. UMaine-Farmington (7-22, 4-8 NAC) will be under the guidance of Katharine McKay who enters her first season at the helm of the Beavers. Key returners include senior outfielder Alison Hamilton (Portsmouth, R.I.; pictured right), who was named first team all-conference last season, outfielder Kiana Thompson (Industry, Maine), infielder Margaret Forgarty (Auburn, Maine), and second team all-conference selection, catcher Kylie Cunningham (Bangor, Maine). UMF graduated four seniors in 2016 and has added many new and young faces to round out this seasons lineup and will look to the leadership of those key returns to make a strong showing.
6. Johnson State (7-19, 4-8 NAC) head coach Robert Gervais enters his ninth year guiding the Badgers. Seniors Jennie Moore (Peachem, Vt.), Anna Bingham (Island Pond, Vt.; pictured right) and Hannah Leroux (Albany, Vt.), junior Kasie Craig (Newbury, Vt.), and sophomore Kaitlynn Woodward (White River, Vt.) will look to lead the 2017 squad. Johnson's success will hinge on a solid defense backing an untested pitching staff.
7. Lyndon (2-26, 0-12 NAC) will be led by Sean Lynch who begins his first season as the Hornets head coach. Key returners for the squad include Shelby Sheridan (Enosburg Falls, Vt.), Brooke Dolloff (Rumford, Maine; pictured right), and Kiya DeWitt (Pittsburg, N.H.). With a core of returners and some new additions, Lyndon will look to improve as a team every practice and every game. They will rely on their quick gloves and even quicker bats to compete in the NAC this season.