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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Tufts University starts the year where it left off after winning its second straight national championship last May, as the unanimous choice atop the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) Division III Top 25 softball rankings.

The Jumbos went 5-1 in the NCAA Championship at Texas-Tyler’s Suddenlink Field for an overall 13-1 postseason run en route to an overall 47-4 mark in 2014, and received all eight first-place votes to start 2015. Tufts spent nine of 13 weeks in the top spot in 2014, including four straight weeks to start the year and then the final three rankings.

While prolific slugger Jo Clair has graduated and is now a Tufts assistant coach, fellow first team NFCA All-American and co-Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA Championship Allyson Fournier returns to the circle for her senior season with the Jumbos. In all, Tufts returns seven starters, including junior shortstop Christina Raso, the 2014 New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) Defensive Player of the Year, and sophomore first baseman Cassie Ruscz, the NESCAC Rookie of the Year.

Division III runner-up Salisbury (44-5 last season) and fifth-place finisher East Texas Baptist (45-10) are solid choices in the No. 2 and 3 spots following stellar 2014 campaigns. Salisbury spent two weeks at No. 1 last season and vaulted back to the clear second choice in the poll to finish the season after dealing Tufts its first postseason loss since 2012 in the first game of the best-of-3 NCAA Championship Series.

The Sea Gulls’ lone losses in Tyler came in the final two games to Tufts, including a 6-0 loss in 14 innings in the second game of the Championship Series that was scoreless for the first 13.

Rounding out the top five are Wisconsin-Whitewater (39-13) and Christopher Newport (38-8). The No. 4 Warhawks tied for third with 13th-ranked St. Thomas (44-9) at the NCAA Championship, while Christopher Newport had its path to Texas blocked by Salisbury in the Super Regionals.

The other three teams that were in the final eight at the NCAA Championship last season are also ranked. Trine (43-6) is ranked sixth, while Rochester (32-14) is 10th and Montclair State (42-8) is 11th.

The NFCA Division III Top 25 Poll is selected by eight NCAA Division III head coaches representing the eight NCAA regions. Final 2014 records are listed, with first-place votes in parentheses.

For the complete poll, click here

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