Knights Predicted to Finish First in The American

The American Release

ORLANDO ­– The American Athletic Conference released its 2021 Preseason Softball Coaches' Poll on Tuesday and UCF is predicted to finish first overall in the conference for the third time in program history.

The Knights, who last won AAC titles in 2014 and 2015, received six out of seven first-place votes, garnering 36 total points to claim the top spot in the poll over in-state rival South Florida. The Bulls were second with 31 points and just one first-place vote after being predicted to finish first in 2019 and 2020.

This marks the third time the Knights have been voted as the favorite to win the conference as they were also tabbed as favorites in 2015 and 2016.

"This is a great honor in a strong conference," said head coach Cindy Ball-Malone. "Our young women should be proud of what they have accomplished and the respect that they have earned, but this is just the beginning. We have seen our Knights play at an extremely high level and now everyone knows who we are and what we are capable of.

"The best part about coaching this squad is witnessing their keen ability to adapt and adjust. I'm looking forward to observing our leadership grow and our confidence take over along with our incredible talent.
Rounding out the rest of the poll, Houston was predicted to finish third with 23 total points, Tulsa was fourth with 20 points, Wichita State was fifth with 18 points, ECU was sixth with 11 points and Memphis was seventh with eight points. You can view the full poll below.

UCF heads into 2021 with almost all of its key players returning from the 2020 squad's historic team, including seniors Alea White, Jazmine Esparza and Kyra Klarkowski, who each announced they would be returning for this season to take advantage of the extra season of eligibility granted by the NCAA after the COVID-19 pandemic forced an abrupt end to all spring sports in 2020.

In Ball-Malone's second season with the Knights in 2020, She led her Knights to a 21-5-1 overall record (.777 winning percentage) that included an 11-game winning streak from Feb. 14 through March 1 and wins over then No. 12 Tennessee and No. 16 Michigan. The Knights secured the best start in program history as they were off to a 16-2 record to start the year. They finished the season ranked seven in the NCAA RPI and 21 in the USA Today/NFCA Top 25 Coaches Poll. The season was canceled before the Knights reached the conference portion of their schedule.

"This is a great honor that is well-deserved, now what we do with it is up to Team XX," said Ball-Malone.

2020 AAC Preseason Softball Coaches' Poll:

RankTeam (First-Place Votes)Points
1.UCF (6)36
2.South Florida (1)31
5.Wichita State18

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