Michigan, Nebraska Ranked in NFCA Preseason Top 10

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Michigan and Nebraska will both open the 2014 NCAA softball season in the top-10, as the preseason USA Today/NFCA Top 25 poll has the Wolverines slotted No. 5, and Nebraska ranked No. 9. Reigning Big Ten Tournament Champion Wisconsin also received votes in the preseason poll.

Michigan is set to return 16 letterwinners from a team that captured its sixth consecutive Big Ten title and advanced to the WCWS for the 10th time. Highlighting the Wolverines' returners is sophomore shortstop Sierra Romero, who claimed Big Ten Player and Freshman of the Year honors last season. Michigan also returns first-team All-Big Ten performers Caitlin Blanchard, Sara Driesenga, Sierra Lawrence and Lauren Sweet, and Haylie Wagner, who was named to the All-Big Ten second team. Head coach Carol Hutchins enters her 30th season at Michigan - she has won three consecutive Big Ten Coach of the Year awards. The Wolverines will open the season in Tampa, Fla., where they will take on No. 4 Florida on Feb. 8. 

The Huskers' preseason ranking of No. 9 is its highest since 2004. Nebraska won 45 games last season and earned the program's seventh trip to the WCWS. The Huskers will return seven starters from last year's team, including its entire pitching staff. Tatum and Taylor Edwards, who are twins, both return as first-team All-Big Ten performers. Second-team All-Big Ten returners include Alicia Armstrong and Emily Lockman. The Huskers will open the season against UTEP on Feb. 7 in Las Cruces, N.M.

Wisconsin returns 14 letterwinners from last year's team that made its fourth NCAA Tournament appearance. Among the Badgers' returners is senior outfielder Mary Massei, who was a unanimous selection to the All-Big Ten first team in 2013. Cassandra Darrah, Stefanni LaJeunesse and Maria Van Abel, who were all named to the Big Ten All-Tournament team after the Badgers' run to the championship, also return to bolster Wisconsin's lineup. The Badgers, who enter their fourth year under the tutelage of head coach Yvette Healy, will open the 2014 season on Feb. 7 against No. 4 Florida in the USF Wilson-Demarini Tournament, along with Michigan.     

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