Softball picked fifth in A-Sun preseason poll
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Senior shortstop Katie Kelly and junior center fielder Kayla Ouellet each earned preseason all-conference honors while the JU softball team was picked to finish fifth in the A-Sun preseason coaches’ poll, as released by the conference office on Thursday.

Kelly earns the honor for the second straight year after recording a team-best 34 RBI and 12 doubles. She enters the year just 15 RBI shy of the JU career record and 26 hits away from the all-time hits mark.

Ouellet finished the season with a team-best 66 hits, 32 runs and 16 stolen bases en route to first team all-conference honors. She also batted .427 in the postseason to receive A-Sun all-tournament accolades.

“We are happy for Katie and Kayla getting the early honors,” said JU head coach Amanda Lehotak. “Katie didn’t find the gaps like she normally does last year, but we are expecting a big season from her. Last season, Kayla had a great year as a sophomore and we know she will have more to show everyone this season. At the end of the year, we hope to have more players join Katie and Kayla with honors.”

Defending champion Lipscomb took the top spot for the second straight year after receiving 118 points and eight first-place votes, while also getting the return nod as the tournament champion. USC Upsate was selected second (100) followed by Kennesaw State (94), FGCU (89) and JU (70) to make up the rest of the top five. Stetson, Campbell, Mercer, UNF, ETSU and Belmont rounded out the rest of the poll.

The fifth place selection is the highest for the Dolphins since they were picked to finished fourth at the beginning of the 2006 season.

“I like the fact that we are not second to last like we have been the last four years,” said Lehotak. “This means we are gaining some respect in the league and, as a program, we are coming along with our progress. Our goal is to work to the top of the conference and I am proud of our kids for moving in that direction.”

The Dolphins will open the season in less than eight days against Buffalo and Bethune-Cookman on Feb. 11 for the first day of the JU Tournament at the JU Softball Complex. They host Kansas and North Carolina the next day to close out the weekend.