LOUISVILLE, Ky. — With eleven players returning who helped guide the Dixie State softball team to the NCAA Division II West Regionals, the Red Storm will begin the 2013 season ranked No. 24 in the NFCA Division II Preseason Poll, released Wednesday.

This is only the second time in school history the Red Storm have made an appearance in a preseason poll. The last time they donned the charts was at No. 4, prior to the 2010 season, the year after they made it to the Division II World Series.

Valdosta State will christen defense of its 2012 national championship as the unanimous pick at No. 1. The Blazers received all 16 possible first-place votes to hold down the top position.

The Red Storm went 1-2 last season against runner-up UC San Diego (45-23) at the West Regionals. UC San Diego follows closely behind VSU at No. 2.

Kutztown (52-7), Angelo State (48-11) and Southern Connecticut State (43-13) rounded out the national top five, respectively.

Joining the Lady Cougars as new additions to this year’s rating was Abilene Christian (30-18) at No. 22 and Dixie State (38-13) in a tie for No. 24.

The Red Storm begins the season a week from Wednesday when they host Montana State Billings at Karl Brooks Field in a doubleheader beginning at 3 p.m.

Jeff Cluff is the Coordinator of Media Relations at Dixie State College Athletics. Contact him at cluff@dixie.edu.