Alvarez Named OVC Player to Watch, Leathernecks Picked Ninth in Conference Poll.

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The Ohio Valley Conference revealed its preseason poll for the upcoming 2024 softball season on Thursday, with the Leathernecks slotted to finish ninth. With 2024 being the team’s debut season in the OVC, head softball coach Alisa Goler expressed her excitement about the new conference, saying “Our staff and players are excited to experience the landscape of the OVC for the first time from the new venues to the new opponents. The OVC is an excellent softball conference & we hope to only add to its reputation of competitive softball.”

Coaches from each team around the conference voted on the poll, and selected Southeast Missouri State to finish first, as the Redhawks received thirteen first-place votes. SEMO dominated the OVC in 2023, going 20-2 in conference play, and were crowned regular-season champions. Eastern Illinois followed the squad from Cape Girardeau, predicted to finish second with six first-place votes. The Panthers finished second in the conference last season, and won the OVC tournament to qualify for the 2023 NCAA softball tournament.

UT Martin is slated to finish third, receiving one first-place vote. The Skyhawks finished fourth in 2023, and won a pair of games in the 2023 OVC tournament. Southern Indiana and SIUE come in at the 4 and 5 slots, respectively. Only one vote separated the two, as Southern Indiana recorded a third-place finish in the conference in 2023, but SIUE made it all the way to the Ohio Valley championship game, finishing as the runner up. 

Tennessee State holds the six slot, receiving eighty votes. The Lady Tigers finished 12-11 in conference play in 2023. In the seven and eight spots are Lindenwood and Morehead State, who both finished with sub-.500 records in 2023. 

Newcomers to the conference, Western Illinois is projected to finish ninth in the OVC, according to coaches. The Leathernecks will look to prove doubters wrong in 2024, as Western returns 16 players from their 2023 squad. Rounding out the group is Tennessee Tech, slated to finish 10th in the preseason poll. 

The conference also named ten players to watch, with Western Illinois’ representative being Bella Alvarez. Alvarez led Western in multiple offensive categories in 2023, including hits, doubles, and total bases. She posted a .306/.354/.500 slash line her junior year, and looks to build on that for her senior year. “I’m excited to see what Bella does this year in a new conference against new opponents,” said coach Goler. “I know that (Bella) is always appreciative of her opportunities to play & will bring her best each game.”

***Story courtesy of Western Illinois University and goleathernecks.com***

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