The Illinois State softball team was tabbed for a third-place finish in the Missouri Valley Conference preseason coaches' poll announced Tuesday.
The Redbirds received 77 points and one first-place vote, trailing only league favorite Wichita State and Southern Illinois. Those two schools and Creighton, which was picked to finish fourth, earned NCAA Tournament berths last season.
"I thought we would be anywhere from No. 3 on down," ISU coach Melinda Fischer said. "It's interesting to see what other coaches are thinking right now, but I think Wichita, Southern and Creighton deserve the nod after their performances last season."
Wichita State had a league-leading six players named to the Preseason All-Valley Team, while no more than two players were recognized from any other team. Despite returning 2005 first-team all-MVC outfielder Randi Patton, ISU didn't have any players named to the preseason team.
"I was kind of surprised we didn't have anyone named to the preseason team," Fischer said. "But that's OK because we've already talked about the fact that if we want to accomplish our goals this season, it's going to take each and every one of our players to contribute at a level that meets their expectations as well as the coaching staff's."
You have free articles remaining.
The Redbirds enter the season with just three position starters returning from last year's 31-21 squad, which finished sixth in the regular-season conference standings.
"We've got a lot of new additions this season, and I'm really excited about them," Fischer said. "We have a lot of possibilities offensively and defensively. I can see using a variety of different lineups early in the season. A lot of that will depend on what people are doing offensively."
ISU will open the season at 1 p.m. Friday against No. 3 Tennessee in the Coastal Carolina Tournament at Conway, S.C. The Redbirds will face the host school at 6 p.m. Friday. On Saturday, ISU will play Tennessee at 12:30 p.m. and Coastal Carolina at 3 p.m.
Fish to visit
Renowned sports psychologist Joel Fish, who has served as a consultant with the Philadelphia Flyers, 76ers and Phillies and numerous Olympic athletes, will present workshops to ISU coaches and athletes Monday before conducting a session open to the public at 8 p.m. at Redbird Arena.
Fish's Redbird Arena session, titled "Getting the Mental Edge & Reducing Risky Student-Athlete Behavior," will be free of charge.
"I've had a chance to go to over 150 campuses, but I'm extremely impressed with how everyone at Illinois State is handling this experience," Fish said. "At ISU I'm getting the chance to convey my message to coaches, student-athletes, the general student population and the public. I believe all the groups will be able to connect with and benefit from these presentations."