Bearcats Picked to Finish Second in NWC; Coaches Pick Linfield to Win Third Straight Title

Spokane, Wash. — The Willamette University women’s softball team has been selected to finish second in the Northwest Conference, according to a coaches poll released this week

Willamette is second in the poll with 55 points and one first place vote. The Bearcats welcome back First Team All-NWC infielder Molly Barnes from a 2005 team that surprised some by challenging for the NWC title until the final weekend of the season. Sophomore pitcher Brittney Tachara and junior catcher Cari Schruth were Second Team All-NWC selections last year.

Two-time defending champion Linfield College has been picked on five of eight ballots to three-peat as Northwest Conference softball champions. Four returning All-Northwest Conference selections will lead the Wildcats in 2006, including senior infielder Stephanie Morgan, senior outfielders Shelly Steinke and Amy Hammons and sophomore utility player Amanda Attleberger. Linfield picked up 65 poll points to outdistance Willamette University by 10 points in the poll.

Pacific Lutheran University, which won 16 out of 17 conference titles between 1987 and 2003, is third in the poll with 54 points and a first place vote. The Lutes aim to return to the top behind two-time NWC Player of the Year Gretchen Ruecker, who has led the NWC in batting each of the last two seasons.

Whitworth College received the final first place vote and had 42 points in the poll. The Pirates return two-time First Team All-NWC pitcher Jo Sonnett, as well as sophomore utility player Heather Case.

Pacific University and the University of Puget Sound were fifth and sixth in the poll, respectively, separated by just two points. The Boxers, who will be led by sophomore All-NWC catcher Caitlin Mastenbroek, picked up 30 points. The Loggers totaled 28 points in the poll, and welcome back sophomore All-NWC utility player Lindsay Fujita.