Grand Valley State, Saginaw Valley Atop 2018 GLIAC Softball Preseason Coaches' Poll
Grand Valley State and Saginaw Valley will begin the new season as the top two favorites ahead of the 2018 Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) softball season, as voted on by league coaches. The Lakers (60 pts, 4 First-Place) will begin the new campaign No. 1 in the GLIAC, while the Cardinals (59 pts, 4 First-Place) earned the No. 2 position just one vote behind GVSU and also receiving votes in the NFCA Preseason Poll.
Grand Valley State have reached the NCAA Tournament in seven consecutive seasons following a 33-18 record, including 17-5 in the conference. The Lakers welcome back 12 letterwinners and seven starters, highlighted by reigning GLIAC Pitcher of the Year Allison Lipovsky who posted a 16-4 mark with a 1.53 ERA and 216 strikeouts in 2017. Senior Teagan Shomin, junior Shannon Flaherty and sophomore Kelcie LaTour are the top returning GVSU hitters.
The 2017 GLIAC Tournament champions Saginaw Valley has high expectations following their third straight 30-win campaign. The Cardinals return all eight position players along with Honorable Mention All-American designated player Courtney Reeves who set the new SVSU single-season record for home runs last season (15). The Cardinals will have senior Anna Conard returning to lead the pitching staff who looks to replace all-region performer Sam Willman.
Wayne State (52 Points, 1 First-Place Vote) will have six newcomers attempt to make up for the loss of four-time GLIAC Player of the Year winner Lyndsay Butler. The Warriors and longtime head coach Gary Bryce will rely on 12 returnees paced by three-year letterwinners in Kristen Lucas (.351 career average) and Kylee Barrett (80 career RBI). WSU is ranked No. 19 in the preseason national poll.
Ashland (40 pts) rings in at No. 4 in the poll and returns reigning GLIAC Freshman of the Year Dayna Denner and last season's RBI leader in junior Paige Summers. AU's program is under new leadership as former AU standout Emlyn Knerem takes over for the retired Sheilah Gulas after 21 years with the Eagles.
Davenport (32 pts) enters 2018 No. 5 in the preseason rankings one season after recording a program-best 49 wins in their final NAIA season with NFCA All-American Alexa Flores returning for the Panthers, while Ferris State (No. 6, 28 pts) welcomes back 17 returnees following their second straight league tournament berth led by first baseman Sarah Meredith.
The following programs occupy the final six spots: No. 7 Northwood, No. 8 Purdue Northwest and No. 9 Tiffin.
GLIAC teams begin non-conference action on Friday, February 23rd before league play commences Wednesday, March 21st.