Jan. 25, 2006
Park Ridge, Ill.- Three Big Ten softball teams are represented in the preseason polls, which were released on Tuesday. Michigan, the reigning national champion, earned the No. 1 ranking in both the ESPN.com/USA Softball Collegiate Top 25 and the USA Today/NFCA Coaches Preseason Polls. Northwestern claimed the No. 15 spot in the USA Softball poll and the No. 16 ranking in the NFCA poll, while Iowa rounded out the Big Ten contingent at No. 19/24 (USA Softball/NFCA).
The Wolverines, who posted a 65-7 record last season, return 13 players from their 2005 national championship team including Big Ten Female Athlete of the Year Jennie Ritter. Ritter led Michigan to its first-ever national title while tallying a 38-4 record with a 0.92 earned run average in 288.2 innings pitched. The Wolverines begin the 2006 non-conference season at the GRU Classic in Gainesville, Fla, on Friday-Sunday, Feb. 17-19.
For the first time in school history, Northwestern begins the 2006 season ranked in the top 25. The Wildcats advanced to the Super Regional round of the NCAA Tournament in 2005, closing out the season with a 42-18 overall mark and a 15-3 league record. Northwestern opens this year's slate on Friday-Sunday, Feb. 10-12 at the Kajikawa Classic in Tempe, Ariz.
Last year, Iowa advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the six consecutive year and 13th time in school history, finishing the season with a 50-14 mark and 12-6 record in the Big Ten. The Hawkeyes, who return 11 letterwinners, open the 2006 season at the Diamond Fun & Sun Classic in Miami, Fla., on Friday-Sunday, Feb. 10-12.
Five other Big Ten squads will join Iowa and Northwestern in opening the 2006 season on Friday, Feb. 10. Illinois will compete in the Getterman Classic in Waco, Texas; Minnesota begins its non-conference slate in the Auburn Tournament in Auburn, Ga.; Ohio State competes in the New Mexico State Tournament; Purdue faces tough competition at the Florida Atlantic Tournament in Boca Raton, Fla., while Wisconsin joins the Wildcats at the Kajikawa Classic.