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Emily Vincent is a second-team all-Southland preseason pick from Sulphur. (Rick Hickman / Special to the American Press)

Emily Vincent is a second-team all-Southland preseason pick from Sulphur. (Rick Hickman / Special to the American Press)

Cowgirls favorites in SLC

Last Modified: Thursday, January 23, 2014 12:36 PM

By Albert Burford / American Press

Southland sports information directors selected McNeese State to win the conference softball title, while the league’s coaches tabbed Northwestern State as the favorite in their preseason poll on Wednesday.

McNeese finished second in the coaches poll, three points behind Northwestern State. Both teams received four first-place votes in that poll.

“Preseason rankings are always kind of a misnomer because it’s always based on last year,” said McNeese coach Mike Smith. “Not to discredit my team, but it’s based on what people are projecting. It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. It’s not a big deal, because that’s not what’s going to get you to the postseason. But I’m honored that the coaches and the sports information directors have us up that high.”

Sam Houston State was picked to finish third in both polls.

The Cowgirls won the 2013 SLC regular-season championship and the Demons took the conference tournament crown.

“Last year we were projected to finish third or fourth in the conference and we won,” Smith said. “Southeastern (Louisiana) was projected to finish in the bottom half and they made it into the tournament.”

McNeese’s conference championship was its third regular-season SLC title.

The Cowgirls return Smith at the helm after he won last year’s SLC Coach of the Year and also bring back 14 letterwinners.

A trio of players highlight that returning class, as catcher Ashley Modzelewski, outfielder Alanna DiVittorio and pitcher Jamie Allred were named to the preseason all-SLC first team. Designated player Emily Vincent of Sulphur was named to the second team.

“There’s going to be a target on your back when you win the previous year and people know what you have returning. People know the type of talent you have,” Smith said. “But there’s a target on Northwestern’s back and Sam Houston and Central Arkansas’ back. Anybody who made the tournament last year, there’s a target on their back. The teams you need to be worried about are the bottom ones. Sometimes you take them for granted and that’s the team that’s going to come up and bite you. You have to bring your ‘A’ game every day in our conference.”

Northwestern State led the league with six all-conference selections, including first-team picks.

The season begins Feb. 6 for SLC teams and league play starts March 7.

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