ULL, LSU softball teams are ranked

The Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns and the LSU Tigers softball teams have received Top 25 rankings in the preseason USA Today/National Fastpitch Coaches Association Division 1 softball poll.
The Cajuns were ranked 13th, while the Tigers are ranked 17th in the preseason poll.
The Cajuns have been ranked in the top 25 in each of the last 12 seasons and in 17 of the last 20 seasons, dating back to 1995. They dropped one spot from 12th in last season’s final polls, and were ranked 11th at season’s start in 2013.
“It’s always and honor and a privilege to be recognized by your peers as one of the top programs in the country,” ULL head coach Michael Lotief said in a news release. “That is a good thing for our program, and it says a lot about the respect that this program garners throughout the country.”
Tennessee opens the season in the top spot with 729 points and seven first place votes, despite defending national champion Oklahoma receiving 17 first place votes. The Sooners are ranked second with 720 points.
The Cajuns face six top-25 teams this season, accounting for 17 games. No. 2 Oklahoma (March 14-15), No. 5 Michigan (Feb. 14-15), No. 10 Texas (Feb. 7-8), No. 18 Baylor (Feb. 28 and April 22), No. 20 South Alabama (April 12-13) and No. 25 University of South Florida (Feb. 22) are all on the Cajuns’ schedule, with Oklahoma, Michigan, Texas and South Alabama each making trips to Lamson Park.
“It’s good to see other teams on our schedule in the polls,” Lotief said. “I am hoping that the expectations of the season and excitement of the schedule encourage people to come support the team at Lamson Park and get on board as we start the cycle with a new group of kids.”
The Cajuns maintained a top-25 ranking despite losing several key players from 2013, including All-Americans Nerissa Myers, Brianna Cherry and Sarah Draheim.
Louisiana-Lafayette returns All-Sun Belt selections Natalie Fernandez, Jordan Wallace and Shellie Landry to compliment a young team entering the season.
“This is a young team though,” Lotief added. “I think this team is going to be very good, but we have a lot of work ahead of us and we have a lot of big shoes to fill. These kids have worked very hard and they embrace the expectations and challenges of being one of the best teams in the country, but it’s going to be a journey.”
The Cajuns open the 2014 season Feb. 7 for the 28th Annual Louisiana Classics with Northern Iowa at Lamson Park. First pitch for the season is scheduled for 2 p.m.
Season tickets can be purchased for $135 for reserved seats and $75 for bleacher seats. Tickets are on sale at the Cajundome Ticket Office or by visiting RaginCajuns.com.
LSU is slated to take the field 19 times against Top 25 competition during the 2014 campaign, which includes 14 games versus seven teams that appeared in the 2013 NCAA Super Regional round and 2013 Women’s College World Series.
The Tigers are one of eight SEC programs ranked among the Top 25. LSU is joined by No. 1 Tennessee, No. 4 Florida, No. 6 Alabama, No. 11 Texas A&M, No. 12 Kentucky, No. 14 Missouri, and No. 23 Georgia.
Non-conference ranked opponents on LSU’s 2014 schedule include the defending national champion and No. 2 Oklahoma along with No. 3 Washington, No. 8 Oregon, No. 10 Texas, No. 20 South Alabama and No. 22 Stanford.
The Tigers also will square off with Hofstra, Long Beach State and Auburn, who are listed among the receiving votes portion of the poll.
After finishing the 2013 season with the program’s 15th 40-win season since 1997, LSU brings back 14 returning letter winners led by A.J. Andrews and Bianka Bell. Andrews was an NFCA Third-Team All-American selection and All-SEC First-Team pick whereas Bell claimed All-SEC Second-Team, NFCA All-South Region First-Team and SEC Freshman of the Year honors.
The Tigers will open their season Feb. 6 with a 6 p.m. contest at Tiger Park against No. 10 Texas.
LSU then will welcome Central Arkansas, Minnesota, Murray State, Oklahoma State and SIU-Edwardsville for the Tiger Classic. The three-day tournament runs Feb. 7-9.
Season tickets can be purchased for $75 at www.LSUtix.net for a home schedule that features 15 games versus 2013 NCAA Tournament teams. LSU squares off with two more 2013 Women’s College World Series opponents in Florida (March 14-16) and national runner-up Tennessee (April 4-6) in addition to NCAA Tournament participants Georgia (April 11-13) and Mississippi State (May 2-4) for three-game SEC series at Tiger Park.

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