KINGS POINT, N.Y. - The United States Merchant Marine Academy has been ranked seventh in the Landmark Conference Preseason Poll. The seven head softball coaches and sports information directors at each institution that sponsor the sport were polled for the preseason ballot.
The Moravian Greyhounds were the unanimous top choice, placing first on every ballot to earn 66 points. The race was tighter at second place as The Catholic University of America picked up 53 points, two ahead of Susquehanna University. The University of Scranton earned 40 points to finish 11 points behind Susquehanna in fourth position.
Moravian has captured the first four Landmark titles and went 37-9 last season and won its first two games in the NCAA Tournament. Sixteen players return in search of a fifth Landmark title, including five All-Conference picks, led by All-American Shannen Mohr and All-Region utility player Jenna Carmon.
Catholic pushed Moravian to the finals of the Landmark postseason last year and brings back 14 players from that team. Megan Rizzi has established herself as one of the top all-around performers in the Landmark and she is joined by three other All-Conference competitors from last season's 23-17 team.
Susquehanna has finished second in the Landmark regular season each of the past three years and went 29-19 a year ago. The team must replace eight departed seniors and four All-Conference players but have 12 players returning led by All-Conference outfielder Lisa Finizio.
Scranton was a Landmark postseason team last year as the squad went 18-14 overall. All-Conference outfielder Mia Collarini moves from the field to the dugout as the team's new head coach and she has a roster with 15 returning players and a trio of All-Conference players including first-teamer Ashley Vosilla.
Drew University also has a new coach this season and the team is fifth in the voting with 29 points. Charlotte Labate takes over as interim coach following the team's 15-18 2011 season. Nine incoming freshmen will add to a roster with offensive standout Lexie Forsell paramount among the three returnees.
Juniata College finished with 23 points claiming the sixth spot in the poll. The Eagles will feature a young team in 2012 with only one senior on its roster and eight returning players overall. ERA leader Kelsea Decker returns to lead the pitching staff while Meghan Decker is the top returning hitter for the Eagles.
United States Merchant Marine Academy rounds out the poll with 11 points in the balloting. The Mariners battled through a tough 2011 campaign but have 11 players expected to return for 2012. Chelsea Tapper was one of the team's top performers as a freshman and should return to lead the offense this year.
The 2012 schedule for most Landmark teams will get underway in early March with spring break trips. The first weekend of Landmark competition will take place March 17 as USMMA hosts Catholic, Drew welcomes Scranton, and Moravian travels to Susquehanna.