KANSAS CITY, Mo. - The Union College Lady Bulldogs, on the heels of winning the 2010 Appalachian Athletic Conference tournament, are now receiving votes in the latest NAIA softball national top-25 poll, released today.
The Lady Bulldogs, 20-16 (8-8 AAC) and winners of five in-a-row, battled through three higher seeded teams in the conference tournament, including top-seeded Reinhardt College, en route to the 2010 AAC title.
Union is receiving 18 votes in the poll released today, just 11 votes behind fellow Kentucky institution Lindsey Wilson College (29).
The top-four teams remained intact, while a pair of teams ranked the entire season surrendered their spot in the final edition of the NAIA Softball Coaches' Top 25 Poll, the national office announced Tuesday. Top-ranked California Baptist tallied all 23 first-place votes, followed by No. 2 Lee (Tenn.), No. 3 Lubbock Christian (Texas) and No. 4 Concordia (Ore.). California State-San Marcos improved two spots to take over at No. 5.
Qualifiers for the NAIA Softball National Championship in Decatur, Ala., May 20 - 26, will be released May 10, followed by the pool-play schedule May 11.
Saint Gregory's (Okla.) had spent the entire season listed among the Top 25, including three weeks ranked among the top 10. The Lady Cavaliers, previously listed 18th, were ranked as high as seventh (March 30), but have lost six of their last 10 games dating back to April 20 to fall out of the poll. After a No. 23 ranking last week and appearances on seven straight polls, Martin Methodist also drops out of the Top 25.
Taking over these two spots on the poll are No. 22 MidAmerica Nazarene (Kan.) and No. 25 Columbia (Mo.). MidAmerica Nazarene had been receiving votes in the three previous polls prior to earning its first national ranking of the season. It is the third showing by Columbia in the poll, as the Cougars owned a No. 25 ranking for two weeks before falling out for a week.
The final poll of the 2010 season saw 17 teams adjust rank, but moves were limited. No. 13 William Carey (Miss.) and No. 19 Olivet Nazarene (Ill.) each bumped up three spots, while No. 14 Simon Fraser (B.C.) and No. 20 Auburn Montgomery (Ala.) fell three.
California Baptist (54-2, 23-1 Golden State Athletic Conference) was the unanimous No. 1 in all eight polls (including preseason) conducted during the season and has been listed in the top spot since March 24, 2009, a span of 15 polls. The Lancers open postseason action on Tuesday in the GSAC tournament.
Second-ranked Lee and No. 17 Trevecca Nazarene have already captured their respective postseason conference tournaments to punch their ticket to the NAIA Softball National Championship in Decatur, Ala., May 20 - 26. The Lady Flames, who boast a record of 55-4, 30-2 Southern States Athletic Conference, posted double-figure runs in 2-of-3 games en route to a 10-3 championship game victory over second-seeded Shorter (Ga.) on May 1. At 41-14, 11-3 TranSouth Athletic Conference, the top-seeded Trojans bounced back from a 3-1 loss to defeat sixth-seeded Bethel (Tenn.) in 10 innings for the league crown, 5-4, on April 30.
Fourteen conferences and unaffiliated groupings are represented in the poll. The Southern States Athletic Conference leads all leagues with four ranked teams: Lee, No. 10 Shorter, No. 16 Brenau (Ga.) and Auburn Montgomery. Three conferences, the GSAC, Association of Independent Institutions and the unaffiliated grouping of the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference and the Sunrise Conference, each have three ranked squads.
The poll was voted upon by a panel of head coaches representing each of the conferences.
The Union College Lady Bulldogs return to the diamond for the NAIA national tournament in Decatur, Ala. on May 20th. The national tournament field of 32 teams will be released May 11th.