Mission Viejo (Calif.), the defending California Division 2 state champion, is the No.1 team in the preseason USA TODAY High School Sports/National Fastpitch Coaches Association Super 25 for softball.
The Diablos finished last season at 26-1 and were ranked third in the final poll. They open their season March 3 against San Clemente.
Mission Viejo is led by pitcher Taylor McQuillin, the Gatorade National Player of the Year last spring who is committed to Arizona, and centerfielder Alyssa Palomino, the Orange County home run record holder and member of the U.S. Junior National Team. She is also heading to Arizona. Other players of note include senior catcher/third baseman Kayleen Shafer (Oregon State), sophomore infielder Camryn Ybarra (Oregon State) and sophomores and Illinois commits Bella Loya and Samantha Dees.
The Diablos have been among the nation’s elite high school programs for several years and coach Troy Ybarra says the biggest challenges to sustaining success “stay healthy, consistent , motivated and to ‘play’ every inning. Having a target on your back is something only mature kids can handle.We have grown up a lot.”
He said the program is used to high expectations, “The kids are expecting to carry the load again all the way to the finish line. They know they have to finish.”
Deer Park (Texas) is No. 2, followed by The Woodlands (Texas), Alexander Central (Taylorsville, N.C.) and Red Mountain from Mesa (Ariz.).
Alexander Central spent all last season in the No. 1 spot and finished with a 35-0 record.
Twelve states are represented in the preseason poll, with four teams each from California, Texas and Florida.
The poll was resume March 26 and will be released each Thursday through June 11.
State rankings submitted by NFCA member coaches are used to help compile the Super 25. Schools do not need to be members of the organization to be considered.