NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Lipscomb Lady Bisons are the overwhelming pick of Atlantic Sun Conference coaches to win the regular season softball championship according to the preseason poll released Wednesday afternoon.
The Lady Bisons, who finished second in the regular season with a 14-6 record and runner-up in the tournament in 2015, received six of seven first place votes. Last year’s champion, USC Upstate, earned one first place vote.
“It feels good,” Lipscomb coach Kristin Ryman said. “It makes you feel like the other coaches in the conference respect our program. They know we are a team to contend with.
“We say this every year about preseason voting. It doesn’t really mean a lot at this point except for other coaches in the league showing respect for our program. It is neat to be noticed, but we still have a lot of work to do.”
The Lady Bisons have one goal this season – a trip to the NCAA Tournament.
“We have high expectations for the program,” Ryman said. “We are not about preseason rankings. We want to be there at the end of the year.
“These girls have had one goal in mind since the beginning of the fall and that goal is not going to change. Our goal every year is to win the A-Sun Tournament and go to the NCAA Tournament or to play a strong enough schedule with key wins to qualify for an at-large bid. But these girls want to win the championship more than they want to qualify for an at-large bid.”
Tanner Sanders, a senior right-handed pitcher, and Brittany Elmore, a senior center fielder, were named to the preseason A-Sun All-Conference team. Elmore was a unanimous selection.
Sanders will team with fellow senior right-hander Kelly Young on the mound again this season. Young was an A-Sun First Team All-Conference selection last season. Sanders was a second team pick.
“It is nice to have one of them recognized though I could see both of them in that spot,” Ryman said. “Tanner has worked hard. She had an outstanding finish to the season last year.
“Tanner has battled through a lot. She has had a lot on her plate in the injuries she has battled through. But she finds a way to win. We believe she had a good fall and we believe the best for her is still to come this season.”
They will be joined by freshman right-hander Mandy Jordan for one of the deepest rotations in the history of the Lipscomb softball program.
“We have a great staff,” Ryman said. “There is no pressure on any single one of them to have to carry the load. All three of them have the ability to play equal roles. It is going to make it very hard for other teams to prepare for us.
“We are excited about what Tanner has done. But we are also excited for what she will do as part of this staff as well.”
In addition to the three starters, junior right-hander McCarley Thomas is also expected to see a great deal of time on the mound.
“McCarley is part of the staff as well,” Ryman said. “She is going to surprise some people this season.”
Elmore has already set a program record for career stolen bases. She stole 43 bases last season to lead the A-Sun overall and set a program season record. But Ryman stresses there is more to Elmore’s skills on the field than just her speed.
“Brittany is one of the outstanding outfielders in our conference,” Ryman said. “She has worked really hard on every aspect of her game whether it be the accuracy of her throws or mixing her slaps or hitting away.
“She has been at the top of our lineup for four years. She can create chaos. She can drive in runs or she can be a table setter. It is very difficult to find a player who fits that role so well in the lead-off spot. She is easily one of the best lead-off hitters in the conference.”
Atlantic Sun Conference
2016 Softball Preseason Honors and Awards
Preseason Player of the Year: Stacy McClelland, North Florida
Preseason Defensive Player of the Year: Brittany Hawn, Stetson
Preseason Pitcher of the Year: Lexi Shubert, USC Upstate ^
^ - Denotes unanimous selection for award
Preseason Atlantic Sun All-Conference Team
Pos Name School Cl Hometown
*P Lexi Shubert USC Upstate Jr. Hickory, N.C.
P Tanner Sanders Lipscomb Sr. Flintville, Tenn.
C Courtney Sutter Kennesaw St. Jr. Marietta, Ga.
*IF Stacy McClelland North Florida Sr. Live Oak, Fla.
*IF Megan Veringa Kennesaw St. Sr. Roswell, Ga.
IF Kayla Drury Stetson Sr. DeLand, Fla.
IF Jessie Tenbroeck Stetson Jr. Live Oak, Fla.
*OF Brittany Elmore Lipscomb Sr. Mount Juliet, Tenn.
*OF Shelby Duncan North Florida Sr. Bartow, Fla.
OF Jazz Vasquez Stetson So. Houston, Texas
UTL/DP Karla Beasley USC Upstate So. Jacksonville, Fla.
* - Denotes a unanimous selection to all-conference team
Preseason Softball Coaches Poll
Pl. Team (1st Place Votes) Points
- Lipscomb (6) 48
- USC Upstate (1) 41
- Kennesaw State 31
- Stetson 25
- North Florida 19
- T6. FGCU 16
- Jacksonville 16