Illinois State and rival Southern Illinois have been picked as the preseason Missouri Valley Conference favorites in softball, according to a coaches’ poll released Wednesday.

Each team picked up 94 points in the balloting, with ISU earning five first-place votes and the defending Valley champion Salukis getting four.

Drake is picked to finish third as the Bulldogs picked up one first-place vote, followed by Northern Iowa, Missouri State, Creighton, Evansville, Wichita State, Indiana State and Bradley. Creighton won the Valley tournament last season.

ISU is coming off a 32-20 season that ended with the Redbirds earning its first at-large NCAA Tournament berth since 2007.

Infielders Kara Nelson and Abby Olson, catcher Elizabeth Kay and pitcher Megan Warner were named to the preseason all-conference team.

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