WINTHROP, Mass. – Johnson & Wales University (RI) and Suffolk University have been selected atop the annual GNAC Softball Preseason Poll, as the 2019 campaign marks the first year the conference will adopt divisional play, featuring six teams in both the North and South Divisions.
JWU and Suffolk are no strangers to one another within the GNAC Softball landscape, as the two programs have squared off in the league championship each of the past two seasons.
As voted upon by the league's head coaches, Suffolk topped the North Division with seven first-place votes and 63 points overall, while JWU led the way in the South Division with 10 of 12 first-place votes and 70 points.
Johnson & Wales has won the last four GNAC Championships under fifth-year head coach Kim Camara-Harvey, capturing the league's automatic qualifier to the NCAA Division III Tournament.
Suffolk, meanwhile, has won at least a share of the GNAC regular-season title in 2015, 2016 and 2018, as seventh-year head coach Jaclyn Davis has changed the softball culture for the Rams.
In 2019, the league schedule will feature doubleheaders against all five divisional opponents, plus three more doubleheaders against three of its six non-divisional foes. All 16 of those games will count in the GNAC standings for postseason tournament positioning.
For the full divisional breakdown and complete poll results, please see below.
Close behind Suffolk in the North side of the poll was Emmanuel College with five first-place votes and 59 points, followed by Saint Joseph's College of Maine with 54 points. Both Emmanuel and SJC advanced to the GNAC Semifinals last spring.
In the South Division behind JWU, Albertus Magnus College received 51 points and the other two first-place tallies in the voting, as the Falcons prepare for their second season on campus at the Shea Softball Complex.
Simmons University was third in the South with 49 points, while the University of Saint Joseph (Conn.) was fourth with 45 points. Making up the remainder of the South was Lasell College (23 points) and Regis College (14).
Following SJC, Norwich University (32 points), Rivier University (31) and Anna Maria College (13) rounded out the North Division poll.
JWU will travel to Clermont, Fla. for spring action on February 26, while Suffolk will be in Kissimee, Fla. beginning March 9. The two will square off head-to-head in a GNAC play doubleheader on Friday, April 26 in East Boston.
For the GNAC Tournament, eight teams will still qualify: the top-four from each division. The No. 3 seeds will host their in-division No. 4 seeds in a single-elimination round prior to the double-elimination portion of the tournament. During the final two days of the 2019 GNAC Tournament on Saturday-Sunday, May 4-5, the South Division No. 1 seed will host. In even years, the North Division No. 1 seed will earn hosting duties for the final two playoff days.
The Monks return all players from last years season minus two seniors under the watch of Co-Head Coaches Jamie Smyth '92 and Dick Bailey. Players leading the way include first team honoree Melodie Bailey (Lebanon, Maine) senior first baseman, along with second team honorees junior second baseman Libby Pomerleau (Limerick, Maine), and senior shortstop Meghan Elliott (Mendon, Mass.), along with third team honoree junior designated player Maizie Lee (Saco, Maine). Junior pitcher Kate Whitney (Jonesboro, Maine) will once again be the Monk's top pitcher this spring.
2019 GNAC SOFTBALL PRESEASON POLL
1) Suffolk (7) - 63
2) Emmanuel (5) - 59
3) Saint Joseph's Maine - 54
4) Norwich - 32
5) Rivier - 31
6) Anna Maria - 13
1) Johnson & Wales (10) - 70
2) Albertus Magnus (2) - 51
3) Simmons - 49
4) Saint Joseph (Conn.) - 45
5) Lasell - 23
6) Regis - 14