PAWTUCKET, R.I.—Two-time defending Little East Conference Tournament Champion UMass Boston softball was picked to finish tied for third in the LEC Coaches' Preseason Poll, the league office announced Friday afternoon.
Despite winning back-to-back postseason titles and making it to three-straight LEC Tournament Finals, the Beacons finished tied for third alongside Western Connecticut State University with 46 points apiece.
Eastern Connecticut State University was selected first with five of the nine first-place votes and 59 points overall. Two-time defending LEC Regular Season Champions Plymouth State University finished second with two first-place votes and 55 total points. The Beacons received the final two first-place votes.
The University of Southern Maine (40 points), UMass Dartmouth (32 points), Castleton University (16 points), Keene State College (16 points) and Rhode Island College (14 points) rounded out the nine-team poll.
UMass Boston returns 14 of their 15 players, including all 10 starters, from last year's team that finished 17-25, but went 4-0 to win the LEC Tournament.
The team's nine upperclassmen have led UMass Boston to the program's first two LEC Tournament Titles and 47 wins over the past two seasons.
UMass Boston's strength will begin with their infield. Five of the Beacons six returning starters have been named to the LEC All-Conference Team in at least one of the past two seasons.
Last year alone, catcher Roxanne Vento (Arlington, Mass.), second baseman Kelly Danahy (Kingston, Mass.) and shortstop Gigi Braga (Medford, Mass.) were all named to the LEC All-Conference First Team. Junior pitcher Jess Greenspan (Rocky Hill, Conn.) already owns the program record for career wins and was named the 2017 LEC Pitcher of the Year.
In addition to their 14 returners, head coach Natalia Ardagna brought in a class of eight freshman. The eight incomers will provide added competition and depth to an already hard-working squad.
UMass Boston will kick off their season in Florida on March 9 at 9:30 a.m., when they take on Houghton College in the PFX Spring Games. After playing 10 games in Florida, the Beacons will make their New England debut on March 20, when they travel to Boston rival Emmanuel College for a doubleheader.
The Beacons will play their home and LEC opener that Saturday, March 23, when UMass Boston hosts Plymouth State University in a rematch of the past two LEC Championship Series.