UTC's Walker Named SoCon Preseason Softball Player Of The Year

Thursday, January 31, 2019
University of Tennessee at Chattanooga softball junior Aly Walker was voted the 2019 Southern Conference Preseason Player of the Year, as announced by the league offices on Thursday afternoon. Chattanooga received one first-place vote and finished third in the preseason coaches' poll.

Coaches were not allowed to vote for their own teams or players in the balloting. UNCG, the 2018 regular season and tournament champions, took the top position after collecting four first-place votes and 33 points.

Mercer totaled one first-place vote and 27 points to finish ahead of UTC in second.
Samford (one first-place vote, 21 points) finished fourth while Furman (20), ETSU (18) and Western Carolina (6) rounded out the poll.

"We're excited for the votes and that the league thinks well of us to put us in that position," said head coach Frank Reed.

"We also understand that this is just a preseason vote and we have to live up to expectations moving forward."

Walker, a Medina, Tenn. native, is one of five Mocs who earned Preseason All-Southern Conference laurels ranging from first team to second team. A 2018 first-team All-SoCon selection, she finished last year's campaign with a .361 batting average and ended with team-highs in both runs scored (28) and doubles (9).

In 16 conference games, she batted a blistering .451 (23-for-51) with two home runs, eight RBI and five doubles while slugging at a .706 percentage and totaling a SoCon-best 36 bases.

"We're really proud of Aly and excited for her. She has done an awesome job for us the last couple years and is very well deserving to be named preseason player of the year," said Reed.

Senior third baseman Devan Brown joined Walker on the all-conference first team after finishing last season with a .275 batting average and nine RBI. In SoCon only games last year, Brown finished seventh in the rankings with a .342 (13-for-38) batting average.

Going down the list of UTC representatives, a trio of veterans in senior Emma Sturdivant (First Base) and juniors Celie Hudson (Pitcher) and Taylor Chadwick (Utility) earned preseason all-conference second team honors this year.

"The staff is really proud of this group and we're happy with what they have done and will do for us moving forward," added Reed.

Sturdivant, a 2017 First Team All-SoCon selection, concluded last year with a .282 batting average and was second on the team with 30 RBI. Her 12 RBI during conference games was eighth most in the SoCon. She finished with an impressive .975 fielding percentage in 436 total chances at first base in 2018.

Hudson worked majority of the innings in the circle for Chattanooga last season, tying for second in appearances (36) and fourth in innings pitched (164.1) in the SoCon. She finished 5-3 (3.05 ERA) and struck out 27 during 55.0 innings of work during conference games a year ago.

Chadwick is in her first season with UTC after transferring in during the fall semester from nearby Georgia State. Earning the preseason honor at the utility position, she expects to see immediate playing time at the middle infield positions while providing the team with elite speed.

"We're excited to see some kids step up who maybe didn't get preseason votes are capable of being all-conference in the end. I hope that this is a challenge for our kids to go out and do that," Reed stated.

Full Preseason Poll and All-Conference teams can be found below.

UP NEXT
Chattanooga opens up the 2019 campaign next week on Friday, February 8, at 2 p.m. ET against Ohio in Kennesaw, Ga., at the Phyllis Rafter Memorial Tournament. All tournament information can be found HERE. GoMocs.com will have additional season and tournament previews leading up to first pitch.

HOME GAMES / TICKETS
The home slate begins February 15 for the Chattanooga Challenge. Season tickets & single game tickets are now on-sale at GoMocs.com or by calling the box office at (423) 266-MOCS. Season tickets (over $30 in savings) cover all 20 games including both the Chattanooga Challenge and Frost Classic tournaments.
 
PRESEASON POLL
Team (First-Place Votes)   Points
1. UNCG (4)                       33
2. Mercer (1)                       27
3. Chattanooga (1)              22
4. Samford (1)                     21
5. Furman                           20
6. ETSU                             18
7. Western Carolina             6
 
PRESEASON PLAYER OF THE YEAR 
Aly Walker, Chattanooga, Jr., OF
 
PRESEASON PITCHER OF THE YEAR
Stephanie Bryden, UNCG, Sr.
 
PRESEASON FIRST TEAM ALL-SOCON
P       Stephanie Bryden, UNCG, Sr.
P       Stella Preston, Mercer, Jr.
C       Megan Lane, Mercer, Sr.
1B     Marisa Sholtes, UNCG, R-Sr.
2B     Lauren Lee, ETSU, So.
3B     Devan Brown, Chattanooga, Sr.
SS     Jasmine Palmer, UNCG, Sr.
OF    Aly Walker, Chattanooga, Jr.
OF    Micayla Rood, Mercer, So.
OF    Jordan Gontram, UNCG, Jr.
DP    Taylor Wright, ETSU, Sr.
UT    Madison Couch, Samford, Sr.
 
PRESEASON SECOND TEAM ALL-SOCON
P       Celie Hudson, Chattanooga, Jr.
P       Emily DeMonte, Furman, Sr.
C       Hannah Trombley, Samford, Sr.
1B     Emma Sturdivant, Chattanooga, Sr.
2B     Whitney Hinton, Samford, Jr.
3B     Nikki Grupp, ETSU, Jr.
SS     Casey Bigham, Furman, Jr.
OF    Makenna Matthijs, UNCG, So.
OF    Ashlyn Barnes, Samford, So.
OF    Kelsey Royalty, Samford, Sr.
DP    Marissa Guimbarda, Furman, So. 
UT    Taylor Chadwick, Chattanooga, Jr.
 

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