Jan. 21, 2014
LOUISVLLE, Ky. -- The defending Big Ten champion University of Michigan softball team will enter the season ranked No. 5 in the nation, as announced today (Tuesday, Jan. 21) by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association in its preseason USA Today/NFCA Top 25 poll.
The Wolverines received one first-place vote and garnered 652 points in all for the inaugural poll of the 2014 campaign. It is the highest preseason ranking for the Maize and Blue since 2010 when the NFCA pegged U-M at No. 4.
Michigan trails only fellow 2013 Women's College World Series participants No. 1 Tennessee, No. 2 Oklahoma, No. 3 Washington and No. 4 Florida in the poll. The Wolverines are the highest-ranked Big Ten team, joined by No. 9 Nebraska in the top 10.
Head coach Carol Hutchins enters her 30th season guiding the Maize and Blue. She has won three consecutive Big Ten Coach of the Year awards and 14 overall. U-M returns 16 letterwinners and adds four freshmen to this year's squad.
Sophomore All-America shortstop Sierra Romero (Murrieta, Calif./Vista Murrieta) headlines the returners along with a pair of NFCA All-Great Lakes Region performers in junior pitcher Sara Driesenga (Hudsonville, Mich./Hudsonville) and senior first baseman Caitlin Blanchard (Petersburg, Mich./Summerfield). That trio of Wolverines, along with juniors Lauren Sweet (Corona, Calif./Santiago) and Haylie Wagner (Orange, Calif./El Modeno) and sophomore Sierra Lawrence (Snellville, Ga./Greater Atlanta Christian),was listed on the 2013 All-Big Ten team.
U-M opens the season with a pair of games against ranked opponents on Saturday, Feb. 8, in Tampa, Fla. The season opener features No. 4 Florida, with No. 25 USF capping off the doubleheader. In all, Michigan has games scheduled against nine ranked opponents. The Wolverines will travel to Lafayette, La., for the first time to play a pair against No. 13 Louisiana-Lafayette during the Ragin' Cajun Invitational (Feb. 14-16).
The 2013 Wolverines won the Big Ten title for the sixth consecutive year and earned a spot in the WCWS for the 10th time in program history.
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