Fayetteville, N.C. - The USA South Athletic Conference has released its 2015 spring sport preseason polls for baseball, softball, tennis and golf. N.C. Wesleyan's tennis teams led the way with the men being pick to win a seventh straight title and the women grabbing five first place votes en route to a 3rd-place billing. Baseball was tabbed 6th in its poll, while softball was picked to finish in 7th-place. Golf rounded out the voting in 9th-place.
In men's tennis, 2nd-year head coach Andres Amores' Bishops collected eight of ten first place votes for 80 points in the poll. Amores returns six letterwinners this spring, led by three-time All-American Robert Kjellberg. Joining those six returners are nine newcomers, completing a roster that represents nine different countries. Entering this spring, Wesleyan has won 55 straight matches versus USA South competition dating back to 2009.
On the women's side, Amores' squad earned five first place votes thanks to a fall season that turned heads in the league. Led by 2014 USA South Rookie of the Year Natalia Lopez, the Bishops are seeking a second league championship in four years, and Amores hopes his talented core of newcomers will help Wesleyan turn the corner. Elsewhere around the league, rival Methodist University picked up the remaining eight first place votes as the preseason favorite.
In baseball, 18th-year head coach Charlie Long hopes his Bishops are a surprise team in the league after earning a 6th-place billing in their poll. Wesleyan returns 29 players from last year's squad that posted a 10-13 record in conference play. Leading the way are All-Conference performers Ciro Norzagaray on the infield and Luis Palencia in the outfield. At the top of the poll was Ferrum College with seven first place votes.
In softball, veteran head coach John Brackett enters his 24th season at the helm of the program, which is 19 wins from its milestone 700th victory. NCWC finished 18-19 overall last spring and turned in a 12-10 record in league action. Brackett returns ten letterwinners and four starters from that squad, led by former All-Conference honorees Jasmine Edgren, Kendra Hoes and Carla Matthews. Defending champion Piedmont was picked to repeat by securing 11 first place votes.
Finally, golf returns to competition behind the leadership of 5th-year head coach Gregg Ripke, whose roster boasts a pair of letterwinners from last spring. The Bishops finished fifth at the 2014 USA South Championship, and Ripke faces a tough challenge in replacing league runner-up Chris Freeman. Once again, perennial powerhouse Methodist University garnered top honors.
Season-opening games and matches are not far away as baseball kicks off next Friday, February 6th, at Huntingdon College. Women's tennis follows suit at the University of Mary Washington on the 14th, while the men travel to UMW on the 21st. Softball opens up at Salem College on the 19th, and golf tees off February 28th in Wilmington. As always, up-to-date schedules, rosters and stats are available at www.ncwcsports.com, and fans are encouraged to follow the Bishops on social media via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
To view the complete USA South coaches poll in each sport, please visit www.usasouth.net.