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Panthers picked fifth in LEC poll

GORHAM, Maine -- Western Connecticut State University is the clear preseason favorite in the first annual Little East Conference softball coaches preseason poll, according to a vote by the league's eight head coaches. Little East Conference commissioner William M. Moore made the announcement Friday.

The Colonials, last year's Little East Conference regular season champion, received seven first-place votes for a total of 78 points. Western Connecticut was awarded an NCAA tournament at-large bid last season. Keene State College received the remaining first place vote and 58 points to edge the University of Southern Maine for second place. The Owls won the 2000 LEC tournament to secure the conference's automatic NCAA bid last year.

Southern Maine tallied 55 points for third place. The Huskies received an ECAC bid last season. Rhode Island College garnered 38 points for fourth place . Plymouth State College nosed out Eastern Connecticut State University for fifth place, 31-28. The University of Massachusetts Dartmouth and the University of Massachusetts Boston round out the poll

Six of the eight conference teams will qualify for the LEC tournament. Single elimination first round games will be played on May 1. The number three seeded team will host the number six seed and the number four seeded team will host the number five seed. The remaining four teams will then play in a double elimination final-four format on May 4-5 at the site of the regular season champion. The winner of the Little East Conference will receive an automatic bid to the NCAA Division III national tournament.

2001 Little East Conference Preseason Softball Poll

1) Western Connecticut (7) 78

2) Keene State (1) 58

3) Southern Maine 55

4) Rhode Island College 38

5) Plymouth State 31

6) Eastern Connecticut 28

7) UMass Dartmouth 16

8) UMass Boston 8

(first place votes in parentheses)