Softball Picked Fifth in Conference USA Preseason Poll

Feb. 2, 2006

IRVING, Texas - The UCF softball team was selected to finish fifth in the 2006 Conference USA regular season as voted on by league head coaches, while Houston was picked to win the regular season title.

The Cougars earned 67 points to edge out East Carolina (64) and league newcomer Marshall (63) for the top spot in the preseason coaches' poll.

East Carolina junior RHP Keli Harrell was tabbed as the C-USA Preseason Pitcher of the Year, while Marshall sophomore utility player Rachel Folden was selected as the Preseason Player of the Year. Harrell led Conference USA in wins and ranked sixth nationally with 29 victories. Her 338 strikeouts last year were a school record and helped her earn second-team All-C-USA and All-Southeast Region honors. Entering her junior year, Harrell already holds the school record for strikeouts with 499.

Folden led the Thundering Herd to their second-consecutive Mid-American Conference regular season title a year ago as a freshman. The rookie led the Herd in batting average (.406), hits (73), doubles (19), RBI (60), total bases (119), slugging percentage (.661), on-base percentage (.468) and fielding percentage (.993) and was named a first-team All-MAC performer and third-team NFCA Louisville Slugger All-American.

Houston is coming off a fifth-place finish in Conference USA last season after making the school's first-ever appearance in the NCAA Tournament. The Cougars have a pair of sophomore pitchers returning in Angel Shamblin and Barbie Love, who earned All-Freshman team honors last season. East Carolina led the league in overall wins a year ago with 55 and finished third in the league standings - the school's highest finish ever. The Thundering Herd joins Conference USA after winning the 2004 and 2005 MAC regular season titles.

Following Marshall in the coaches' poll is Southern Miss - the only school among the nine in the league this season that has previously won the regular season title. The Golden Eagles captured the regular season crown in 2004 and also won the regular season and tournament crowns in 2001.

Two newcomers follow the Golden Eagles as UCF was picked fifth and Tulsa sixth in the poll. The Golden Knights, an NCAA Tournament participant last season, join Conference USA after winning the 2005 Atlantic Sun Tournament crown. The Golden Hurricane finished third in the WAC standings a year ago and will host the 2006 Conference USA Softball Championship, May 11-13.

UAB, UTEP and Memphis round out the final three spots in the coaches' poll. The Blazers are one of four teams, who have previous experience in C-USA softball, while the Miners joined the league from the WAC and Memphis is making its softball debut this season under head coach Wendy Thies.

(2005 Overall, Conference Records)
1. Houston (30-28, 11-12 C-USA)
2. East Carolina (55-19, 17-7 C-USA)
3. Marshall (38-20, 20-4 MAC)
4. Southern Miss (29-32, 10-14 C-USA)
5. UCF (47-29-1, 13-7 A-SUN)
6. Tulsa (31-30, 11-7 WAC)
7. UAB (23-37, 7-16 C-USA)
8. UTEP (16-38, 3-15 WAC)
9. Memphis (0-0, 0-0)

East Carolina
Krista Jessup, Sr., Catcher
Keli Harrell, Jr., Pitcher - Preseason Pitcher of the Year

Angel Shamblin, So., Pitcher
Barbie Love, So., Pitcher

Rachel Folden, So., Utility - Preseason Player of the Year
Abigail Harter, Jr., Pitcher

Nicki Johnson, Jr., Pitcher
Kara Ross, Jr., Catcher

Southern Miss
Ashley Davis, Sr., First Baseman
Jessica Huerta, Sr., Shortstop

Katie Torres, Sr., First Baseman
Maren Genow, Sr., Pitcher

Lindsay Stanley, Jr., Outfielder
Jennifer Nelson, So., Pitcher

Allison Kime, So., Pitcher
Amber Lamb, Jr., Shortstop

Sarah Ramirez, Sr., Outfielder
Megan Barber, Sr., Pitcher