The Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association softball coaches are split regarding who the favorite is to win the conference championship according to their 2009 Preseason Poll.

Defending MIAA regular season and tournament champion Emporia State and conference newcomer Nebraska-Omaha finished deadlocked atop the survey with 94 points each.

The Hornets, NCAA Division II runner-up last season, picked up five of a possible 10 first-place votes (coaches are not allowed to vote for their school), while the Mavericks collected four top votes.

The Central Missouri Jennies scooped up the two remaining first-place votes and finished third in the poll with 84 points.

More ties could be found lower in survey, as Northwest Missouri State and Washburn each finished with 66 points for shares of fourth place, while Missouri Western and Pittsburg State each ended up with 51 points and tied for sixth.

Truman was eighth in the poll with 36 points, and was followed by two schools sporting new head coaches for 2009.

Fort Hays State, with Julie Lemaire now in the dugout, placed ninth with 29 points. Missouri Southern, now led by Bill Gray, was five points back with 24. Southwest Baptist rounds out the list with 10 points.

ESU, ranked No. 25 in the NFCA Preseason Top 25, returns plenty of offense. All-America junior INF Miranda Campbell (.404-17-58) who led the Hornets in batting and home runs last season, is back along with senior UT Shelbe Hughes (.349-4-30) and senior INF Jennifer Dace (.319-11-57). Emporia State will be looking to senior RHP Megan Dennis (12-6, 3.21 ERA) to bounce back after being affected by a knee injury last season.

UNO returns five starters among the non-pitchers, and will have two pitchers back entering into its debut season in the MIAA. Junior C/INF Treightin Yates (.335-3-24) is the Mavericks top returning hitter, while sophomore LHP Beth Haley (20-8, 1.95 ERA, 3 Sv.) was the North Central Conference’s Freshman of the Year in ’08. UNO received votes in the national preseason survey.

UCM, 19th in the NFCA poll, has the MIAA’s leader in ERA and strikeouts in senior LHP Megan Leonard (20-9, 1.07 ERA, 5 Sv., 9.54 K/7). Junior OF Tarese Ely-Myers (.351-13-48) was the Jennies’ top hitter last season and leads four returning starters among non-pitchers.

The MIAA will compete in the NCAA Division II South Central Region for baseball with the Lone Star and Heartland conferences this season.

2009 MIAA Softball Preseason Coaches Poll
   School                     1. Emporia State (5)           
     Nebraska-Omaha (4)          
 3. Central Missouri (2)        
 4. Northwest Missouri State    
 6. Missouri Western            
     Pittsburg State             
 8. Truman                      
 9. Fort Hays State             
10. Missouri Southern           
11. Southwest Baptist