SPARTANBURG, SC - UNC Greensboro has been selected fifth in the pre-season Southern Conference softball poll according to the league’s eight head coaches. In addition, junior first baseman Jennifer Bonilla was named first team All-SoCon, while Kelly Allen, Gwen Johnson and Vanessa Oakes were selected to the second team.
Chattanooga was tabbed as the favorite with four first place votes and 52 total points. The Lady Mocs edged out 2005 regular season and tournament champion College of Charleston by just one point. The Cougars accumulated 51 total points and three first place votes.
Georgia Southern was selected to finish third with 43 points, followed by Elon, which nabbed 40 points and the final first place vote. UNCG was fifth with 29 points.
Bonilla, the native of Hope Mills, NC, leads a group of 11 returning players for first-year head coach Jennifer Herzig. Bonilla was a first team member and a finalist for conference Player of the Year honors in 2005 after hitting .350 with 15 doubles, seven home runs and 30 runs batted in. She ranked third in the league in batting, fourth in both slugging percentage (.554) and doubles and fifth in on-base percentage (.407) after starting all 60 games at first base.
Allen, the senior designated player who hails from Harrisburg, NC, was a second team All-SoCon selection last season after hitting .288 with 12 doubles and a team-leading 11 homers and 37 RBI. She led the league with a .564 slugging percentage and drew a league-leading 33 walks. Allen also tied for second in homers and tied for third in on base percentage (.412) in the conference.
Johnson, who enters her second season with UNCG after transferring from Louisburg Junior College, started 56 games in the outfield one year ago. The Boston, VA native hit .273 with a team-best 37 runs scored and stole a team-topping 14 bases. Johnson possesses a powerful throwing arm that had eight outfield assists in 2005.
Oakes, the staff ace in 2005 after posting a 13-16 record, was one of two pitchers named to the second team. The junior out of Wilmington, NC, will once again be called upon to be a leader on the pitching staff in 2006. Oakes placed fourth in the SoCon last year in wins, innings pitched (187.2) and starts with 31. Her 125 strikeouts ranked as the sixth most in a single-season at UNCG.
The Spartans unveil their newly renovated UNCG Softball Stadium on Saturday, February 11 when Radford comes to town for a doubleheader beginning at 1pm.
2006 SoCon Preseason Softball Poll
1. Chattanooga (4) 52
2. College of Charleston (3) 51
3. Georgia Southern 43
4. Elon (1) 40
5. UNC Greensboro 29
6. Appalachian State 26
7. Western Carolina 20
8. Furman 19
Preseason All-SoCon Softball First Team
P Meredith Gay, Elon
P Logan Free, Georgia Southern
C Jayme Durand, College of Charleston
1B Jennifer Bonilla, UNC Greensboro
2B Paige Goss, Elon
3B Lindsey Glover, Appalachian State
SS Tara Tembey, Chattanooga
OF Natalie Willis, Appalachian State
OF Leshe Russell, College of Charleston
OF Shanita Black, Georgia Southern
DP Ashleigh Bull, Chattanooga
UT Debbie Zeigler, Elon
Preseason All-SoCon Softball Second Team
P Vanessa Oakes, UNC Greensboro
P Mendy McKenzie, Western Carolina
C Sam Steiner, Georgia Southern
1B Brittany Whittier, Chattanooga
2B Kasey Motsinger, Appalachian State
3B Maria Laurato, Georgia Southern
SS Jessica Lyness, College of Charleston
OF Mary Lutz, Appalachian State
OF Jeannie Cochrane, Chattanooga
OF Gwen Johnson, UNC Greensboro
DP Kelly Allen, UNC Greensboro
UT Tiffany Hensley, Appalachian State