GORHAM, Maine - Two-time defending Little East Conference champion Western Connecticut State University received seven first-place votes and 63 total points to finish first in the annual pre-season poll of the league's eight coaches.
A year ago, the Colonials swept the conference's regular-season and tournament titles, before advancing to the College World Series of the NCAA Tournament and concluding the campaign with an overall mark of 34-9-1. In conference play, the Colonials were 12-1-1.
Plymouth State College received the remaining first-place vote and 54 total points to place second in the poll. The Panthers finished the 2002 regular season in second place with a 10-4 league mark and received a bid to the ECAC Tournament before concluding the year at 24-13-2.
In third place, the University of Southern Maine (28-17-1; 7-7) collected 46 points to narrowly edge Keene State College (2-11-2; 8-5-1), which finished fourth with 32 points. The two teams met in the opening round of the LEC Tournament, and the sixth-seeded Huskies eliminated the third-seeded Owls. Southern Maine concluded the season with an appearance in the ECAC Tournament.
Also receiving a bid to the ECAC Tournament was Rhode Island College (27-13-0; 7-7), which placed fifth in the poll with 32 points. Seeded fifth in the 2002 LEC Tournament, Rhode Island College ousted the fourth seed, Eastern Connecticut State University (19-18; 8-6). The Warriors placed sixth in the pre-season poll with 26 points.
The remainder of the poll found the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth (11-21; 3-11) in seventh with 16 points and the University of Massachusetts Boston in eighth with eight points.
Each of the league's eight members will play a 14-game, regular-season conference schedule, consisting of double-headers against the remaining seven league foes. All eight teams will participate in the conference tournament, which will consist of a single-elimination quarterfinal round on April 29 at the sites of the higher seeded teams. The four winners will advance to a double-elimination tournament to be held on May 2-3 at the site of the highest remaining seed.
2003 Little East Conference Softball Preseason Poll
1) Western Connecticut 63 (7)
2) Plymouth State 54 (1)
3) Southern Maine 46
4) Keene State 43
5) Rhode Island College 32
6) Eastern Connecticut 26
7) UMass Dartmouth 16
8) UMass Boston 8
(first place votes in parentheses)