OKLAHOMA CITY -- With less than 10 days until the start of the 2015 NCAA Softball season, 13 student-athletes from the SEC are among the top 50 that have been selected for the "Watch List" for the 2015 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year award, the Amateur Softball Association (ASA) of America and USA Softball announced today.
Now in its 14th year, the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year award, given by the National Governing Body for softball in the United States, recognizes outstanding athletic achievement by Division I female collegiate softball players across the country.
Representatives from the SEC on the "Watch List" include: Haylie McCleney from Alabama; Kasey Cooper and Branndi Melero from Auburn; Lauren Haegar and Kelsey Stewart from Florida; Alex Hugo, Chelsea Wilkinson, and Paige Wilson from Georgia; Kelsey Nunley from Kentucky; Bianka Bell from LSU; Emily Crane and Tori Finucane from Missouri; and Annie Aldrete from Tennessee.
Previous recipients of the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year award, the most prestigious individual honor in NCAA Division I Softball, are UCLA catcher Stacey Nuveman (2002), Texas pitcher Cat Osterman (2003, 2005 and 2006), Florida State pitcher Jessica Van der Linden (2004), Tennessee pitcher Monica Abbott (2007), Virginia Tech pitcher Angela Tincher (2008), Washington pitcher Danielle Lawrie (2009 and 2010), Stanford shortstop Ashley Hansen (2011), Oklahoma's Keilani Ricketts (2012 and 2013) and Florida State's Lacey Waldrop (2014).
The pre-season "Watch List" includes 26 seniors, 18 juniors and six sophomores, with freshman ineligible for consideration. (Freshman can be considered for the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year award once they have competed at the collegiate level.) Athletes named to the "Watch List" represent 32 NCAA Division I universities and 13 athletic conferences. Arizona leads the way among universities with four athlete representatives, while Georgia, Michigan, Oklahoma and Oregon have three athletes on the "Watch List" apiece. The SEC is also well represented among the Top 50 "Watch List" with eight member-schools represented and the Pac-12 Conference is represented by seven universities. Eight athletes on the Top 50 "Watch List" will also compete as a member of the 2015 USA Softball Women's National Team this summer.
The Top 25 Finalists for the 2015 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year award will be announced April 8. While an athlete does not have to be on the "Watch List" to be considered for the Top 25, the eventual USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year will come from the Top 25 Finalists. The Top 10 Finalists will be announced May 6 and the Top 3 announced May 20. The 2015 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year will be revealed May 26.
In addition to bestowing the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year award, ASA/USA Softball is now in its 13th season of presenting the ESPN.com/USA Softball Collegiate Top 25 Poll and the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Week, which are announced Tuesdays during the regular season. The pre-season ESPN.com/USA Softball Collegiate Top 25 Poll was released Jan. 27 with Florida, Oregon, Oklahoma, Alabama and Florida State taking the Top 5 spots respectively.