EDISON, N.J. – The Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) released the 2017 Softball Preseason Coaches’ Poll on Monday. The Niagara Purple Eagles, who finished last season in eighth place with a conference record of 8-12 (10-38 overall), were slated to finish ninth in the annual preseason poll with 42 points.
The Marist Red Foxes were voted as the conference’s preseason favorite, earning 10 of 11 first-place votes and 119 points overall. Monmouth received the other first-place vote and was selected second with 107 points. Fairfield University (91 points), Canisius College (81 points), Manhattan College (80 points), and Quinnipiac University (71 points) round out the MAAC preseason top six. In the 2016 season, Niagara recorded a record of 4-8 against those six teams, earning wins against Monmouth, Fairfield, Canisius, and Manhattan.
Seven points separated seventh and ninth place in the preseason poll, as Niagara (42 points) was voted ninth behind seventh-place Iona College (49 points) and eighth-place Siena College (48 points). Rider University was voted tenth with 24 points, followed by Saint Peter’s University at 14 points.
Head coach Larry Puzan returns for his fourth season leading the Purple Eagles, and his 22nd year overall with the program. Niagara returns both of its 2016 All-MAAC selections, Second Team infielder Chanelle Ward and All-Rookie Team pitcher Sierra Bertrand. The Purple Eagles return 15 of 19 players overall from last season, and the team welcomes six freshmen for the 2017 campaign.
Niagara opens its 2017 regular-season schedule on Feb. 11 and 12 with four games at the Cleveland State Dome Tournament in Cleveland, Ohio.