BOSTON, Mass. -- With 139 points and one first place vote, Simmons Softball is ranked third as the Great Northeast Athletic Conference annouced its 2013 Pre-Season poll Tuesday. The Sharks will look to build around the arm of the 2012 GNAC Rookie of the Year Lauren Backhaus (Windsor, Conn.) and the 2012 GNAC Player of the Year offensive powerhouse Emily Cunningham (Cotuit, Mass.).
Backhaus posted 15 wins during her rookie campaign en route to being named to the 2012 DIII Northeast Regional Second Team, while Cunnigham made all 44 starts at first base without an error and led the Sharks with 46 RBIs and 9 home runs.
Saint Joseph's College (ME) has been selected as the 2013 GNAC Softball Pre-Season Coaches' Poll favorite, receiving seven first place votes and a total of 163 points. The Monks claimed their second consecutive GNAC Championship last April and will look to make it a three-peat later this spring.
Coming in a close second was Emerson College with 157 points and five first place votes. The Lions will look to return to the top after a three year hiatus from a GNAC Championship (2009). The Johnson & Wales Wildcats earned the fourth ranking with 122 points after a trip to the GNAC Semifinals last season.
Rivier University rounded out the teams receiving over 100 points in the poll, finishing in fifth place with 108 points, while the University of Saint Joseph (CT) squad finished with 99 points in sixth place, Norwich University registered 92 points in seventh place and Suffolk University rounded out the top eight with 63 points.
The nine through 12 spots were separated by just two total points as there was a tie for the ninth spot between Albertus Magnus College and Anna Maria College with 55 points. Emmanuel College came in 11th with 54 total points while Lasell College was just behind the Saints with 53 points in 12th place. Rounding out the 2013 poll in 13th were the Anna Maria College AMCats with 23 points.
The Sharks open their season in Clermont, Fla. on Sunday, March 10th versus Salve Regina at 3:00 p.m.
Courtesy of the GNAC