Thursday, January 25, 2007

The USA Today/National Fastpitch Coaches Association pre-season top 25 poll was released yesterday (see link to this poll on the right-hand side of this page).

A few weeks ago (a few entries down), I suggested that:

Based on returning talent, I'm looking for Arizona, Northwestern, and Tennessee (not necessarily in that order) to be the teams to beat in '07.

The USA Today/NFCA poll largely matches my prediction, except for the insertion of UCLA into the No. 3 spot ahead of Northwestern:

1. Arizona (23 first-place votes)
2. Tennessee (7)
3. UCLA
4. Northwestern
5. Arizona State

At the conclusion of last season, I listed several leading teams' players for whom 2006 was their senior year. Based on this list, I thought UCLA would fall somewhat from its customary national-title contention. Also, the transfer of the Bruin coaching reins from Sue Enquist to Kelly Inouye-Perez throws another wild-card into the mix. Still, though, UCLA returns some key players, including shortstop Jodie Legaspi and pitcher Anjelica "Jelly" Selden.

Several of the top schools have their own press releases, discussing their respective squads' pre-season rankings, as can be seen via the links to the team-specific pages.

Update: The pre-season edition of the other major national poll, that of ESPN and USA Softball, has the top teams ranked virtually identically to the USA Today/NFCA poll described above.