KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The Evangel University softball team is receiving votes in the 2017 NAIA Preseason Top 25 released this week by the organization.
The Crusaders, who finished 31-16 last season, were receiving votes last season through April in the NAIA Top 25. It was the first time since the 2012 season that Evangel had been mentioned in the Top 25 Poll when the Crusaders climbed as high as No. 18 before finishing just outside the top 25 in the final rankings.
Second-year head coach Jay Halbrook leads the Crusaders into 2017 after going 15-7 in the Heart of America Athletic Conference and finishing third. Evangel also returns Heart Newcomer of the Year, pitcher Kyra Parker and all-conference performers, Caitlin Buckalew, Michelle Sheppard and Kiara Carrier.
Defending national champion, Oklahoma City, was the unanimous No. 1 pick, as the Stars and Crusaders will meet February 25 at the Fayetteville Classic in Arkansas. Evangel's early season schedule begins at Oklahoma Wesleyan who is also receiving votes before hosting No. 9 Morningside on February 17 in a double-header in Springfield. Heart member Grand View entered the poll at No. 17 as Central Methodist begins the season at No. 20.