MILWAUKEE - After earning their first NACC championship in 2018, Marian University softball received 242 votes, five first-place selections, to finish third in the NACC preseason poll, as voted on by the sports information directors and head coaches of the league.
Aurora (29-17, 16-6 NACC in 2018) will look to return to the top of the table and have been picked as the favorite to win the conference. Aurora, who is also receiving votes in the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) Division III preseason poll, tallied 266 points and 10 first-place votes to edge Benedictine by four points. The Eagles (30-15, 17-5 NACC), who won last year's NACC Tournament as the No. 2 seed and advanced to the NCAA Regional, sits second with 262 points and nine first-place votes.
Marian (26-13, 17-5 NACC) was third with 242 points and the five remaining first-place votes, while Concordia Chicago posted 215 points to rank fourth.
Milwaukee School of Engineering (188 points), Concordia University Wisconsin (170), Wisconsin Lutheran College (152) and Dominican University (129) stand fifth through eighth in the preseason rankings, while Edgewood College (85), Lakeland University (77), Alverno College (52) and Rockford University (34) round out the list.
The regular season kicks off Saturday, Feb. 23, as Edgewood and Marian each play a pair of games at the Finlandia Dome Tournament in Marquette, Michigan. Dominican and Wisconsin Lutheran get a jump start on the rest of the league when they begin the NACC slate with a doubleheader on Sunday, March 24, in Rosemont, Illinois. The first full day of NACC matches is the following Saturday, March 30, where six doubleheaders are on the docket featuring all 12 programs.
A 22-game league slate will determine the NACC champion with the top six in the final regular-season standings advancing to the six-team conference tournament, which will be hosted by Aurora May 2-4 at Sam Bedrosian Stadium in Montgomery, Ill. The tournament champion receives the league's automatic berth to the 2019 NCAA Division III Softball Championship.
Marian opens the season at the Finlandia Dome Classic where the Sabres will take on Finlandia, UW-Superior, St. Scholastica, and Northland over the course of February 23-24.
2019 NACC Softball Preseason Poll
First-place votes in parentheses