Manchester University, the reigning Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference champions, was picked as the preseason favorite to defend its crown with the release of the annual coaches' poll Wednesday, Jan. 29.
The Spartans received 74 ranking points and two first-place votes, finishing one point ahead of second-place pick Anderson University. Bluffton University of Ohio rounded out the top three.
Five players made the league's Players to Watch list. Senior third baseman Kylie Planck (Valparaiso, Ind.), junior outfielder Shannon Stephan (Granger, Ind.), junior shortstop Emily Willmann (Montpelier, Ind.), junior pitcher Ashlea Nash (Gas City, Ind.) and sophomore outfielder/catcher Kalie Niezgodski (South Bend, Ind.) represented MU.
MU begins its season March 1 and 2 at Centre College of Kentucky. The complete HCAC coaches' poll can be viewed at www.heartlandconf.org.