LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Defending national champion Tufts picked up where it left off last May, earning unanimous selection as the top-ranked team in the 2014 National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) Division III preseason softball rankings.The Jumbos, who went 46-3 last season en route to the program’s first national title, return three of the four players selected to the NCAA Division III World Series All-Tournament Team, including pitcher Allyson Fournier, the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, catcher Jo Clair and outfielder Michelle Cooprider.
Montclair State opens the year as the No. 2-ranked team, after a year in which it went 46-5 and advanced to the NCAA World Series. The Red Hawks beat Central (Iowa) in its opener there, but lost 3-1 in nine innings to eventual champion Tufts to fall out of the winner’s bracket. A loss to Salisbury ended Montclair’s season.
Third-ranked Salisbury (42-4 last season) fell short of its national title quest with a 7-6 defeat to national runner-up Cortland in the consolation bracket. The Sea Gulls opened NCAA World Series play with an one-run loss to the Red Dragons and defeated Anderson, Montclair and Texas-Tyler before dropping the rematch with Cortland.
Cortland is ranked fourth following a 35-17 season. The Red Dragons posted a school-best second-place NCAA finish after starting the year just 8-10. Both of Cortland’s losses at the World Series were to national titlist Tufts.
Texas-Tyler, whose ballpark will be the site of this spring’s NCAA World Series, is ranked fifth following a 47-6 campaign that included a trip to the 2013 tournament finals. The Patriots were eliminated by Salisbury following wins againstCentral and Luther and an opening loss to Tufts.
Fellow NCAA World Series participants Central (32-10) and Luther (33-11) are sixth and seventh, respectively, while 2010 national champion East Texas Baptist (37-12), Trine (38-5) and Virginia Wesleyan (41-8) round out the top 10 teams.
Anderson (Ind.) was the only 2013 NCAA World Series participant to not make the first ranking, tying Capital for the top spot in the others receiving votes category.
The NFCA Division III Top 25 Poll is selected by eight NCAA Division III head coaches representing the eight NCAA regions.