HAMDEN, Conn. – The Quinnipiac University softball team was selected to finish second in the 2012 Northeast Conference Preseason Coaches’ Poll, as announced by the league office on Tuesday evening. The defending NEC regular season champion Robert Morris was picked as the favorite to win this year’s title, as the Colonials received six first-place votes.
The Bobcats also received three first-place nods, while last season’s NEC tournament champion Sacred Heart finished third in the poll with one first-place vote. Bryant was tabbed fourth, followed by LIU Brooklyn and Central Connecticut, in the fifth and sixth positions. Monmouth landed seventh as it garnered a first-place vote, while Fairleigh Dickinson was chosen eighth and Wagner followed in the ninth spot. Mount St. Mary’s and Saint Francis (Pa.) rounded out the field.
Quinnipiac finished the 2011 season at 32-26 overall and 13-7 in league action as the Bobcats’ clinched the third seed in its second consecutive trip to the NEC Tournament. Despite advancing to the championship round, Sacred Heart was crowned champion as it boasted an undefeated record in the tournament after the game was canceled due to poor weather conditions.
The Bobcats look to win their first conference title as head coach Germaine Fairchild returns a veteran cast of student-athletes. Heather Schwartzburg (Mission Viejo, Calif.), the 2011 NEC Pitcher of the Year, looks to lead Quinnipiac in her senior campaign after breaking the Quinnipiac single-season record for wins and the university and league’s single-season strikeout record, ending the year with 22 wins and 296 strikeouts.
QU also returns last year’s NEC Defensive Player Ashley Heiberger (Sioux Falls, S.D.) and Rookie of the Year sophomore Jordan Paolucci (Lake Mary, Fla.). Heiberger received the conference’s Golden Glove award in her first season with the Bobcats, while Paolucci led the Bobcats with a .351 batting average and new program record of 15 homeruns as a rookie.
Junior Jacquie Ristow (Seal Beach, Calif.) looks to make an impact this season after leading the team with 57 hits to earn All-NEC second team honors. Fellow classmate Lauren Salgado (Covina, Calif.) returns after leading the Bobcats and the NEC with 16 stolen bases on the year, while junior Alex Alba (Sylmar, Calif.) hopes to continue her consistent play at the plate and in the shortstop position for the Bobcats during the 2012 campaign. In addition to a squad of 13 letter winners, the Bobcats welcome three freshmen, including Nikki Barba (San Diego, Calif.), Brittney Cyr (Southington, Conn.) and Hannah Lindsley (Narragansett, R.I.).
The Bobcats open the upcoming season when they compete at the Lancer Leadoff Classic in Longwood, Virginia next weekend. Quinnipiac takes on Iona and St. Peter’s in the first day of tournament action on Saturday, Feb. 25 at 11:30 a.m. and 4 p.m., respectively.
Place, School, (First-Place votes)
1. Robert Morris (6)
2. Quinnipiac (3)
3. Sacred Heart (1)
5. LIU Brooklyn
6. Central Connecticut
7. Monmouth (1)
8. Fairleigh Dickinson
10. Mount St. Mary’s
11. Saint Francis (PA)
Contact: Lindsay Oliveri, email@example.com