Softball Picked To Finish Fifth In NEC Preseason Coaches' Poll

HAMDEN, Conn. - The Quinnipiac University softball team was picked to finish fifth of 11 teams in the 2009 Northeast Conference Preseason Coaches' Poll, the league office today announced. The Bobcats finished in sixth last season after posting an 18-30 overall record and an 8-10 mark in conference play.

Last season's regular season champion, Long Island, earned top billing in the poll with nine of 11 possible first-place votes from the conference coaches. NEC Tournament Champion Sacred Heart picked up the remaining two first-place nods to earn second place. Robert Morris and Monmouth were slotted to finish just ahead of the Bobcats in third and fourth places, respectively. Wagner, Mount St. Mary's and Saint Francis (PA) finished sixth through eighth, while Bryant, Fairleigh Dickinson and Central Connecticut round out the poll in the final three spots.

"I am actually pleased to come out in the preseason poll in the fifth position," said head coach Germaine Fairchild. "I think our team will use that as motivation. That placement is perfect for us and I hope that the rest of the conference believes in their heart of hearts that we are going to finish fifth because that will play into our favor."

Quinnipiac returns 15 players from 2009, led by eight seniors looking to capture the program's first postseason berth since the 2007 season. The team graduated no players last year, and picked up five new freshmen to complete this season's roster. The Bobcats return the 2009 Northeast Conference Rookie of the Year in Heather Schwartzburg (Mission Viejo, Calif.), who led the NEC last season in ERA (1.64) and strikeouts (206), as well as holding opposing batters to a league low .196 batting average. Also returning for Quinnipiac is senior shortstop Christine Bourdeau (Seymour, Conn.) who started all 48 games and led in several batting categories including batting average (.355), hits (55), runs (27), doubles (10) and slugging percentage (.439).

The Bobcats kick off their season on Feb. 20 when they take part in the Longwood Lead-Off Classic in Farmville, Va. The team will face off against tournament-host Longwood University first at 12 p.m.