Two-time defending GSAC champion and reigning NAIA national champ Concordia is the head of class in the conference as the 2014 softball season opens.
The Eagles, who are an impressive 108-7 (.939) over the past two seasons which includes an 8-3 victory over Spring Hill (Ala.) in last year's NAIA title game, return 13 players from last year's 52-3 team, including NAIA All-Americans Jenna Jorgenson (.392, 12 HR, 60 RBIs) and Caitrin DeBaun (.392, 11 doubles, 16 SBs). Senior catcher Emily Craig (.367, 11 HR, 46 RBIs) is one of six starters back, but Concordia, which has won 31 of its past 32 GSAC games, will have to replace its top two pitchers from its title team of a year ago. Returnee Brittani McGue (10-0, 1.16 ERA in '13) will take over duties as the staff ace, while freshman BethAnn McCann (Anaheim, Calif./Loara HS) will lend support for a nearly rebuilt pitching staff.
Concordia opens the season as the NAIA's top-ranked team in the coaches' preseason poll. It's the tenth consecutive poll that the Eagles have sat atop the rankings, and they're the only GSAC team to make an appearance the opening poll.
Led by the dean of GSAC coaches, Beth Renkoski, Vanguard returns a pair of All-GSAC players from last year's 34-24 team that finished second in conference play with a 10-6 mark. Renkoski enters her 18th season at the Lion helm, and she'll be guiding one of the youngest teams in her long tenure. The Lions' 20-player roster features just one senior, pitching ace Brittany Colenzo (10-2, 1.27 ERA). All-GSAC juniors Brittney Boggs (.420, 6 HR, 43 RBIs) and Breanna Gomez (.276, 7 doubles, 27 RBIs) will spearhead the Lion offense, while newcomer Taylor Wilson (Modesto, Calif./Enochs HS) leads a class of six freshmen.
First-year coach Aimee Rosa inherits a Hope International program that returns three All-GSAC players from last year's 28-23 team, seniors Lauren Ackerson (.291, 10 HR, 33 RBIs), Adi Lopez (.425, 18 SBs), and Liz Gonzalez (18-13, 2.45 ERA)
Biola hopes to christen its renovated softball complex with a winning season. The Eagles, who were 25-28 a year ago, are paced by All-GSAC catcher Bria Madrid (.293, 15 RBIs).
Former Murray State coach Jay Pyron takes over second-year program Arizona Christian, which dropped 39 of 42 games during its inaugural 2013 campaign. The Firestorm return nine players and add 10 newcomers to program.
First-year program San Diego Christian is in good hands with head coach Sheryl Shaeffer, a former NAIA All-American shortstop at Point Loma Nazarene and eventually the head coach for the Sea Lions. Shaeffer welcomes 19 first-year Hawks, including four freshmen.