Jan 21, 2014 5:37 PM by UL Sports Information
LAFAYETTE, La. - The Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns softball team has been ranked 13th in the initial 2014 USA Today/NFCA Division I Softball Poll, which was announced by the NFCA on Tuesday.
The Cajuns have been ranked in the top-25 in each of the last 12 seasons and in 17 of the last 20 seasons, dating back to 1995. They dropped one spot from 12th in last seasons final polls, and were ranked 11th at seasons start in 2013.
"It's always and honor and a privilege to be recognized by your peers as one of the top programs in the country," head coach Michael Lotief said. "That is a good thing for our program and it says a lot about the respect that this program garners throughout the country."
Tennessee opens the season in the top spot with 729 points and seven first place votes, despite defending national champion Oklahoma receiving 17 first place votes. The Sooners are ranked second with 720 points in the poll.
The Cajuns face six top-25 teams on the 2014 regular season schedule, accounting for 17 games. No. 2 Oklahoma (March 14-15), No. 5 Michigan (Feb. 14-15), No. 10 Texas (Feb. 7-8), No. 18 Baylor (Feb. 28 & April 22), No. 20 South Alabama (April 12-13) and No. 25 USF (Feb. 22) are all on the Cajuns' schedule, with Oklahoma, Michigan, Texas and South Alabama each making trips to Lamson Park.
"It's good to see other teams on our schedule in the polls," Lotief . "I am hoping that the expectations of the season and excitement of the schedule encourage people to come support the team at Lamson Park, and get on board as we start the cycle with a new group of kids."
The Cajuns maintained a top-25 ranking, despite losing several key players from 2013, including All-Americans Nerissa Myers, Brianna Cherry and Sarah Draheim.
Louisiana returns All-Sun Belt selections Natalie Fernandez, Jordan Wallace and Shellie Landry, to compliment a young team entering the season.
"This is a young team though," Lotief added. "I think this team is going to be very good, but we have a lot of work ahead of us and we have a lot of big shoes to fill. These kids have worked very hard and they embrace the expectations and challenges of being one of the best teams in the country, but it's going to be a journey."
As great an honor as it is to be selected in the top-25, Lotief says that the team would have the same approach and confidence going into the season, no matter what.
"Confidence comes from within," Lotief said. "It doesn't come from your batting average, a result or how someone feels you are. In my opinion, confidence comes from how you see yourself, and hopefully our girls are confident because they believe in themselves, their preparation and how they believe in each other. Even if we were 150th in the polls, I'd hope our girls came into the season with as much confidence as they would now."
The Cajuns open the 2014 season on Feb. 7 for the 28th Annual Louisiana Classics with Northern Iowa at Lamson Park. First pitch for the season is scheduled for 2 p.m.
Season tickets can be purchased for $135 for reserved seats and $75 dollars for bleacher seats. Tickets are on sale at the Cajundome Ticket Office or by visiting RaginCajuns.com.