BYU softball was voted to finish first and five players were recognized in the West Coast Conference Preseason Poll, as announced by the league on Wednesday afternoon.
After winning three-consecutive WCC championships, the Cougars were picked in the preseason to repeat for a fourth time. BYU received five first-place votes to put them at the top, while Loyola Marymount and Pacific were voted to finish in second and third, respectively.
BYU had five players named to the 2017 All-WCC preseason team: Lauren Bell, Alexa Strid, Libby Sugg, Ashley Thompson and McKenna Bull. All five student-athletes received postseason WCC honors in 2016, Bell, Strid, Thompson and Bull on the All-WCC First Team and Sugg on the All-WCC Second Team. The Cougars had the most players selected with five, the next most being three from San Diego.
Senior first baseman Thompson is the reigning WCC Player of the Year after leading the team with a .400 batting average, .733 slugging percentage and .490 on-base percentage. She also had a team-high 66 hits. Her efforts led her to be recognized on the NFCA All-Pacific Region Second Team. She started all but one game in 2016.
Senior Bull has been the WCC Pitcher of the Year for the last two seasons. She was also on the NFCA All-Pacific Region Second Team with her teammate Thompson. In 2016, she became the all-time shutout and saves leader at BYU while reaching second in all-time wins, complete games, innings pitched and strikeouts. She also holds single-season BYU records for wins, complete games, shutouts, saves, innings pitched and strikeouts. Last year, she threw two no-hitters.
After a strong junior season, Bell was named WCC Defensive Player of the Year in 2016. She was second on the team in batting average with .373 and in hits with 62.
In 2016, Sugg led the team in RBIs (58) and home runs (18). She ranked in the top 25 in the NCAA for home runs and home runs per game for the majority of the season.
Strid played outfield in most of 2016, but she is moving to short stop in 2017. She exploded during conference play, hitting .489 while notching 10 RBIs, 22 hits and 10 runs. In 10 of 15 WCC games last season, she had at least two hits.
BYU’s season starts a week from Thursday in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, against Nebraska in the Puerto Vallarta College Challenge. The game will be televised live on ESPN3 at 10 a.m. CST. The Cougars will also face No. 1 Oklahoma, No. 2 Auburn and No. 13 Washington at this tournament.
The WCC release can be seen on the conference website.