NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. – The Merrimack softball team has been tabbed to finish fourth in the Northeast-10 Conference Northeast Division, as announced by the league's Preseason Coaches' Poll Thursday.
The Warriors were tabbed to finish in the top half of the newly configured Northeast Division, good enough in theory to qualify for the league playoffs. New to this year's championship format, the top four teams in each division will qualify for the single-elimination, eight-team postseason, as approved by the conference for the upcoming campaign.
Nearby rival UMass Lowell, who finished fifth overall last year, was pegged as the preseason favorite in the Northeast Division with 108 points and 10 first-place votes. Southern New Hampshire claimed the six remaining first-place votes and came in second in the poll with 102 total points.
Just ahead of Merrimack with 81 total points was Stonehill, with the Warriors rounding out the top four in the division. Franklin Pierce (52) was predicted to finish fifth, just outside of the playoff boundary, and Saint Anselm (44), Bentley (39) and Saint Michael's (19) rounded out the Northeast Division rankings.
Moving to the Southwest Division, defending regular season champion Southern Connecticut State was a near-unanimous choice to repeat, as the Owls earned 11 first-place votes and totaled 108 points, tied with UMass Lowell for the most in the entire conference.
After just qualifying for the postseason last year, New Haven stunned a number of teams en route to making it to the penultimate day of the NE-10 Championships last spring. The Chargers were pegged to finish second in the Southwest, earning 90 points and one first-place vote.
Adelphi, the No. 2 seed in last year's playoffs, was predicted to finish in third (81), while Le Moyne, the runner-up in last year's tournament, rounded out the top four with two first-place votes and 76 points. Defending league champion Assumption was pegged to finish in fifth place (62), ahead of Pace (44) and American International (31). Finally, Saint Rose (20) rounded out the field for the Southwest Division.
Merrimack opens up the season on Sunday, March 3. The Warriors take on NE-10 foe Adelphi and LIU Post in Garden City, N.Y., to open up the year, and after their trip to Florida from March 21-25 will return home to open divisional play against UMass Lowell on March 27.