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For the first time in program history, UCF Softball was ranked among the top 25 teams in the 2016 USA Today/NFCA Division I Preseason Coaches Poll as they claimed the 17th spot Tuesday afternoon.

The Knights also managed to claim the 17th spot inside the ESPN.com/USA Softball poll. The Knights moved as high as No. 13 before landing in the No. 16 spot in the NFCA poll at the end of the 2015 season with a franchise best, final record of 50-9.

UCF will open the 2016 season at No. 17 under the direction of head coach Renee Luers-Gillispie. Starting the program in 2002, Gillispie has led the Knights to four conference championships as well as the program’s first regular season and conference title in 2015. UCF led the nation with a .93 ERA in addition to ranking second in the country with a .979 field percentage.

After a record breaking 50 wins in the 2015 season in addition to breaking 11 more single season records, the Knights face their toughest schedule of all-time. In the 2016 season, UCF will be competing against 14 teams in the preseason poll as well as six teams ranked in the top 10.

The team kicks off their season at the UCF Knights Invitational on Feb. 11 at 4 P.M. with an opening game against Liberty. The tournament runs until Feb. 14 where UCF will face top teams including No. 5 Alabama and No. 19 James Madison.

UCF will be led by 2015 American Pitcher of the Year, Shelby Turnier and Knights Player of the Year, Jessica Ujvari. Turnier was ranked first in the 2015 season with a recorded ERA below 1.00 as well as being the only NFCA All-American in program history.  UCF will also be guided by senior power hitters Samantha McCloskey and Kalyn Cenal.

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Amanda Schoep is a Contributing Writer for the Central Florida Future.