HANCEVILLE – Wallace State's defending national championship softball team is No. 1 in the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Division I preseason poll for the first time in program history. The Lady Lions will enter the 2014 as the top-ranked team after winning the program's second national championship last season in St. George, Utah.
Wallace State won its first NJCAA Division I national title under coach Jayne Clem in 2008 and started at No. 3 in the preseason poll the following campaign.
"It's awesome for our program to be the top-ranked team in the nation. Our players are excited to be a part of the first team to be ranked at the top of the preseason poll," said Clem, who is entering her 15th season with the Lady Lions. "Rankings don't mean anything until you get on the field and do what you are supposed to do. We do have a good nucleus returning, and they're excited for the challenge."
Wallace State opens the regular season on Feb. 7, when it hosts the Creek Indian JUCO Classic in Atmore. Teams from Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi and Texas are scheduled to play in the two-day tournament.
Kori Benson, Madeline Lee, Kelsey King, Ashleigh McClure, Sabrina Russell and Annie Holcomb are Wallace State's returning sophomores this season.
Benson hit a single-season school-record 23 home runs as a freshman, also finishing with a .352 average and 69 RBIs. The Oak Grove product was the 2013 NJCAA national tournament defensive MVP, a NFCA All-American and the ACCC/Region 22 state tournament MVP.
Lee, an all-tournament selection at the national tournament, hit .385 for the Lady Lions with nine homers and 37 RBIs. She added 15 doubles, 19 steals and a .428 on base percentage.
Wallace State defeated Salt Lake City Community College in last year's title game. The Lady Lions won five of six games in the tournament, scoring 33 runs along the way.
In 2013, Wallace State also won its second straight state tournament championship and sixth in seven seasons.
For more information about Wallace State athletics, visit wallacestate.edu.
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Sophomore Kori Benson returns to the top-ranked Wallace State softball team after clubbing 23 homers last season during the Lady Lions' national championship run.