For the sixth consecutive year Fontbonne University is the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Softball Preseason favorites. Fontbonne received nine of ten first place votes and totaled 81 points in the poll, as voted on by the league's coaches. Greenville College was picked second with 71 points, including one first place vote, while Spalding University was chosen third after receiving 62 points.
Fontbonne, coached by Bill Rosner, is coming off their fifth consecutive SLIAC Tournament championship and have won four straight regular season titles. The Griffins finished last year with a 34-9 overall record, going 17-1 in conference play, and return 10 players including six starters. They will once again be led by the Glixman twins. Cassi Glixman, a senior first baseman, is the reigning SLIAC Player of the Year after hitting .444 with five home runs and 45 runs batted in. Her sister Dani, a senior third baseman, hit .458 with four home runs and 36 RBI while earning First Team All-Conference honors. Senior centerfielder Shannon Fitzpatrick is the table setter, hitting .355 with a team high 20 stolen bases. The league's top offensive team also return pitchers Madison Leonard and Lindsay Schaefer. The junior duo gained plenty of experience last season, starting 37 of the team's 41 games. Leonard was 16-4 with a 2.26 earned-run average and 171 strikeouts while Schaefer went 15-2 with a 1.72 earned-run average and 41 strikeouts. Fontbonne welcomes a pair of freshman infielders in Courtney Kedroski and Lauren Faulstich to the squad.
Greenville welcomes in new head coach Tracy Cromer, who takes over a team that went 30-14 overall and 15-3 in the SLIAC last season. The Panthers bring back eight starters as well as 13 players from last year's team. The Panthers return 2014 SLIAC Newcomer of the Year, sophomore infielder Tiffany Samsoe. Samsoe, a senior, hit .455 with five home runs and 44 runs batted in last season while finishing second in the conference in doubles with 19. Becca Oldham, a sophomore, helps the Panthers in numerous ways and earned First Team All-Conference honors as a utility player. Oldham hit .341 with 32 RBI at the plate and was 11-2 with 55 strikeouts in 81.2 innings pitched last season. Junior outfielder Bryn McKie also returns after hitting .440 and leading the team with 17 stolen bases while earning Second Team All-Conference honors. On the mound Hannah Burger will join Oldham. Burger, a senior, was 4-4 last year with 35 strikeouts in 56.2 innings pitched and will be looking to capitalize on her SLIAC All-Tournament team performance last spring. The young Panthers, just three seniors on the roster, add to their youth with the addition of Endia Fletcher-Wilson (three time Illinois All-State), Leah Janes (two time Arizona All-State) and Brooke Miller.
Spalding was chosen third in the SLIAC poll and bring back three starters and eight players from last year's team that was 26-16 overall and 13-5 in the SLIAC. Head Coach Art Williams will rely on junior pitcher Kelci Flener, the 2014 SLIAC Pitcher of the Year, to keep opponents off the scoreboard. Flener was 15-9 with 138 strikeouts last season, leading all pitchers during conference play in both shutouts and strikeouts while finishing third in opponents batting average. Offensively the Golden Eagles will need to replace a trio of All-Conference hitters. This year they will turn to juniors Alyssa McAfee and Becca Mouser to replace the offensive firepower. McAfee, an outfielder, hit .371 with 25 runs batted in while Mouser, a shortstop, hit .341 with 36 runs batted in. Newcomers Amanda Gilliland and Robyn Schoen should compete for playing time.
Westminster College received 54 points in the poll and will be led by new head coach Joe Henderson. Henderson takes over a young team, with no seniors on the roster, and brings back five starters from last year's team that was 14-22 overall and 11-7 in the SLIAC. The Blue Jays will lean on sophomore outfielder Allison Biggs, who hit .347 with six home runs and 26 runs batted in last season while earning First Team All-Conference honors. Briana Peterson, a sophomore, is a versatile player and hit .330 last year while finishing second on the team in stolen bases with seven. Alyssa Johnson, a sophomore catcher, played in all 36 games as a true freshman last season, throwing out seven base-runners. The Blue Jays will need to replace three time All-Conference pitcher Brittany Lee and will look to newcomers Shannon Perrigo and Amber Bartley to challenge for that spot. Brittany Hodge, a sophomore infielder, adds more depth for the Blue Jays who increased their roster size to 20 players.
Webster University is picked fifth in the poll after going 13-19 overall and 9-9 in conference play. The Gorloks are led by Chris Eaton, in his sixth season, and return just two starters and six players. Webster will be paced by junior outfielder Erin McGinnis and sophomore outfielder Emily Kolisch. McGinnis hit .343 last season with 25 runs batted in while Kolisch hit .292 with 17 runs scored in 25 games played. Newcomers Tessa Johanning, a freshman pitcher/infielder, Chloe Costa, a freshman pitcher, and Kaylyn DeCock, a junior catcher, figure to see plenty of action for the Gorloks.
Iowa Wesleyan College finished sixth in the poll with 46 total points. The Tigers are coached by Mike Hampton and return eight starters from last year's team that went 17-21 overall and 9-9 in the SLIAC. The Tigers' Mikalya Dwyer, a senior first baseman, hit .405 with 30 runs batted in and a team high eight home runs en route to earning Second Team All-Conference honors. Caitlin O'Neil, a sophomore shortstop, also returns after hitting .333 with two home runs and a team high 34 runs batted in. Seniors Samantha Shepard, Andrea Bury, and Kristine Becks will provide the team with leadership roles. The Tigers added Allie Willis, a utility player, and Samantha McIlwain, an honorable mention All-State pitcher, to their squad this year.
MacMurray College was picked to finish seventh, receiving 29 points. The Highlanders are coached by Lexy Determan, who led her team to a 10-23 record in her first season at the helm. MacMurray returns four starters highlighted by senior infielder Breezy Walton, who hit .329 last year, and sophomore infielder Daerial DeGroot, who was second on the team in both home runs (4) and runs batted in (18). Junior Mika Morgan is also back after tying for the team lead in stolen bases and finishing with 24 runs scored. The Highlanders bring in a pair of All-Conference performers from Lincoln Land in Stephanie Watkins, a catcher, and Melinda Wilson, a shortstop.
Eureka College received 28 points, finishing eighth in the poll. The Red Devils are coached by Debi Neff and went 14-19 overall and 4-14 in the SLIAC last season. They return five starters including junior infielder Savanna Tapper and senior outfielder Kim Lamar. Tapper hit .305 with two home runs and 22 runs batted in while Lamar hit .287 with 13 runs batted in. Eureka brings in nine new players including a pair of freshmen in Kali George and Jennifer Maus as well as junior Katie Tobias.
Blackburn College was picked ninth in the poll with 17 points after going 6-32 overall and 2-16 in conference action. Second year head coach Suzannah Toresdahl returns four starters and seven players from last year's squad. Seniors Erica Wilson and Mary Chamberlain will be counted on not only for their leadership but for the play on the field. Wilson, an infielder/pitcher, hit .345 at the plate and made seven starts last season. Chamberlain, a pitcher/outfielder, made six starts and hit .302 with nine runs batted in last season. Jaclyn Elmore, a transfer, and Hannah Goett, a freshman, join the team and will compete for playing time.
Principia College was chosen tenth in the poll after receiving 12 total points. The Panthers are coached by Ken Leavoy and return six starters from last year's squad that went 10-20 overall and 4-14 in the SLIAC . The Panthers bring back senior outfielder Thanda Kyaw, Second Team All-Conference in 2013 and 2014, who hit .394 with five runs batted in and eight stolen bases last year. Also returning is senior shortstop Jessy MacMullin, 13 runs batted in and 11 stolen bases, and junior catcher Kelsey Whitney, .262 batting average with 11 runs batted in. The Panthers added Tanya Marquardt, a freshman outfielder, and Yulia Marquardt, a freshman catcher, to their team roster.