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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Repeat national champion Virginia Wesleyan University opened the season right where it started last year — as the top-ranked team in the NFCA Division III Top 25 poll.

The Marlins broke the Division III record for wins for the second straight season, besting their 2017 total by one, finishing 55-3 after defeating Illinois Wesleyan, 3-1, in the finale of the best-of-three NCAA Championship Series on OGE Energy Field on May 29 at the USA Softball Hall of Fame Complex. 

Including its 2017 run to its first national championship, Virginia Wesleyan has now won 61 of its last 64 games, and has been the unanimous top-ranked squad in Division III for 21 straight weeks.

Illinois Wesleyan, which went 40-14-1 last year, opens the year where it finished, at No. 2, while fellow national finalists Ithaca (third), Rowan (fifth), Massachusetts Institute of Technology (eighth), Case Western Reserve (ninth) and Luther (10th) are all in the top 10.

The other team from the 2018 Division III final eight, Texas-Tyler, which is playing a mostly Division III schedule (with no scholarship players yet) before moving to Division II next season, received 15 votes. The Patriots have already played the four Division II opponents on their schedule, winning all four, and will start their final year of American Southwest Conference play (they aren’t eligible for the conference or NCAA tournaments) next Friday with the opener of a three-game series against Hardin-Simmons.

Elsewhere, No. 13 Texas Lutheran and 16th-ranked George Fox tuned up for the season with two games apiece against NAIA opponents, while No. 21 East Texas Baptist opened its season with a 4-1 home victory over Centenary College (La.) on Monday.

The NFCA Division III Top 25 Poll is selected by eight NCAA Division III head coaches representing the eight NCAA regions. Final 2018 records are listed, with first-place votes in parentheses.

NFCA Division III Top 25 Poll – Feb. 6, 2019

Rank

Team

2018 Record

Points

1

Virginia Wesleyan (8)

55-3

200

2

Illinois Wesleyan

40-14-1

192

3

Ithaca

35-13

184

4

Linfield

39-9

176

5

Rowan

39-13-1

168

6

Christopher Newport

37-10

160

7

St. Thomas (Minn.)

39-8

152

8

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

38-11-1

144

9

Case Western Reserve

38-12

136

10

Luther

43-11

128

11

Randolph-Macon

40-7

96

12

Williams

39-8

85

T13

Berry

39-6

79

T13

Texas Lutheran

39-3

79

T13

Wisconsin-Whitewater

29-13-1

79

16

George Fox

35-11

78

17

Saint Benedict

36-10

72

18

College of New Jersey

31-10

51

19

Coe

28-14

46

20

Wisconsin-Oshkosh

26-14

45

21

East Texas Baptist

33-13

44

22

Central (Iowa)

29-12

34

23

Moravian

36-8

29

24

Manhattanville

27-16

28

25

Geneseo

32-9

22

 

Others receiving votes: Tufts 20, St. John Fisher 18, Texas-Tyler 15, Saint Mary’s (Ind.) 9, Arcadia 5, Aurora 5, Cortland 5, Messiah 4, Salisbury 4, Lynchburg 3, Hope 2, Amherst 1, and Emory 1.

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