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Big Rapids, Mich. - For the second consecutive year, the Ferris State University softball team has been chosen to finish fourth overall of 14 schools in the 2014 Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) Preseason Coaches Poll, which was announced by the league office.
The league's head coaches selected Grand Valley State to win the league title in 2014. Head coaches were not allowed to vote for their team.
GVSU finished on top of the 2014 GLIAC Preseason Coaches' Poll after a trip to the 2013 College World Series, where the Lakers were one of the final four teams standing in Salem, Va. GVSU edged out Ferris State for the league regular season title last year before claiming the Midwest Regional championship by winning a best-of-three series at Indianapolis. The Lakers tallied 159 points and six first-place votes.
Wayne State grabbed second in the poll with 155 points and six first-place votes. WSU was the 2012 & 2013 GLIAC Tournament Champion and earned a spot in the NCAA D-II Midwest Regional Tournament last year. Ashland placed third in the poll with 147 points and two first-place votes, followed by Ferris State, another NCAA Tournament participant a year ago, with 122 points in fourth.
Ohio Dominican collected 113 points, just edging out Northwood (111 points) for fifth place. Tiffin grabbed seventh place and tallied 101 points followed by Findlay with 98 to finish in eighth place.
Saginaw Valley State grabbed 73 points to finish the poll in ninth place. Hillsdale tallied 65 points to finish 10th in the poll while Walsh would finish 11th with 52 points. Lake Superior State finished 12th with 36 points followed by Malone in 13th (26 points) and Lake Erie in 14th with 16 points.
This season, the GLIAC Softball Tournament will be played at Marathon Diamonds in Findlay, Ohio on May 2-4.
Ferris State, under first-year head coach Sarah Rotta, will open the season on Saturday, March 8, as the Bulldogs open action in the annual Florida Rebel Spring Games, which will be held in Winter Haven, Fla. FSU will face Northern State (S.D.) in its opener at 10 a.m. (ET) and later meet Adelphi (N.Y.) in a 2 p.m. (ET) tilt.
Overall, Ferris State will play a total of 12 games over a seven-day span in the Sunshine State during FSU's annual spring break week. The Bulldogs close the event on Friday, March 14, with a doubleheader before returning home.
Last spring, the Bulldogs posted a 29-16 overall record and reached the NCAA Tournament for the eighth time in school history. It represented the 10th consecutive year in which FSU had won at least 24 games in a season. The Bulldogs finished as the GLIAC runner-up in regular-season play with a 20-6 league record in 2013.
Ferris State Bulldogs
Head Coach: Sarah Rotta
2014 Preseason Pick: 4th
OVERVIEW: The Ferris State University softball program will feature a new look this season as first-year head coach Sarah Rotta takes the Bulldog helm and FSU faces the task of replacing seven seniors from last year's NCAA Tournament team. The Bulldogs recorded a 29-16 overall record a year ago, marking the 10th consecutive year in which FSU has won at least 24 games, and closed the regular-season as the GLIAC runner-up with a 20-6 league mark. Ferris State also advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the eighth time in school history.
The Bulldogs return an all-conference shortstop in junior Michelle Tononi, who started all 45 games a season ago, but the rest of the infield will likely feature new faces. Rotta expects big contributions from junior college transfer Megan Galganski at first base along with freshman Sarah Johnson on the opposite corner among others. Rookie catcher Casey Bias figures to fill a leadership role behind the plate as the squad's primary catcher with a handful of others also vying for time at various spots in the in field.
The bulk of the squad's returning experience this season comes in the outfield where senior Alex Wittman headlines the Bulldogs' most seasoned group. Wittman started 43 games in 2013, while sophomore Alyssa Smith was in the starting lineup 40 games. Also back are experienced sophomores Rachael Gabrielson and Taylor Verbic, who both played in 36 outings last spring, along with junior Jordan Maxwell.
Two-time all-conference and all-region honoree Amy Dunleavy will likely move into the starter's role and be the leader on the mound as she takes over for departed 2013 GLIAC Pitcher of the Year Dana Bowler. One of two seniors on the team along with Wittman, Dunleavy finished with an 8-4 mark a year ago in 15 pitching appearances. The Bulldogs will rely on talented freshman Megan Hiler to work as another starter with relief coming from junior Cara DeLange and redshirt freshman Stacy Thompson, who both sat out last season due to injuries.
Rotta owns more than 300 career victories and has built highly-reputable and nationally-recognized programs at each of her previous stops.