St. Louis, Mo. - After seven straight first-pick SLIAC preseason coaches poll, the Fontbonne University Griffins softball team has been tabbed third for the 2018 season. It looks to be a tight race with the top four teams in Westminster, Greenville, Fontbonne and Eureka all within 10 points.
Greenville, last year's tournament champions, are under new guidance while Westminster and Eureka each return their top players. Westminster's Erica Burney, last year's SLIAC Player of the Year, and Eureka's Kerrigan Dura were both named Fast Pitch News Preseason All-Americans.
It will be head coach Danni Glixman's first year at the helm for the Griffins. The All-American has Mike Akers and Mike Lewis on staff from last year while Colleen Bryan returns to Fontbonne to coach as the Associate Head Coach. Alumni Sarah Cerutti and Cassi Glixman are also back to aid in the building of the young Griffin squad.
Last year Fontbonne took their sixth consecutive regular season conference crown, but fell in the SLIAC tournament for the first time in seven years. "After a disappointing ending to last year, we know we need to work a lot harder," commented Glixman. Fontbonne probably has the toughest non-conference schedule among SLIAC programs, facing off against Tufts University, Luther College, Washington University, St. Catherine's University and the University of Chicago. "We drew a pretty tough schedule down in Florida this year. We are playing Tufts twice, who won the NCAA championship three consecutive years, Luther ended their season ranked 10th, and St. Catherine's and Univ. of Chicago were both ranked in the top-25 for most of last season."
In 2016, the Griffins finished the year 23-13 overall and 14-2 in conference play. Fontbonne lost Emily Smith, Madi Leonard, Courtney Kraus and Lindsay Schaeffer to graduation. The combo of Leonard and Smith in the circle and behind the plate is a tall task to fill for Glixman and her squad. "Looking at Conference we need to prove ourselves as much as we have done in the past by going out and by playing our game. Last year's setback has driven us to get better, and that is what the team is doing now day in and day out."
Fontbonne returns heavy hitter and All-Region sophomore Emelia Modglin to the lineup (.416, 47 hits, 35 RBIs), and this year she will spend most of her time as catcher. Two-time All-Region junior Sam Brown hopes to get healthy before the season begins. She hit .423 last year with 44 hits and 23 RBIs and both her and Modglin were SLIAC Newcomers of the Year their respective freshman seasons. Maddy Strickland and Diamond Thomas are both back to put time into the circle while Melanie Russo returns to man first base and Maddie Cooksey center field. Returning to the infield are Courtney Kedroski and Alleigh Kruse with top newcomers in Beth Fields and Brianna Durant. Fields will be a utility player for the Griffins while Durant should get some time in the circle as well. Overall Fontbonne returns 12 and has five newcomers on the squad.
Fontbonne opens the 2017 season at home on March 4th with a doubleheader against Loras College. The Griffins will begin the first of the two-year round of hosting the SLIAC Tournament at ABC Ballpark the first weekend of May. Fontbonne's full schedule can be found here.
2017 Preseason Poll