Softball Ranked 57th In First RPI Poll Of 2017
Strength Of Schedule Is 17th In Division 1
INDIANAPOLIS - The NCAA released its initial Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) of the 2017 Division I softball season, and the North Texas softball team earned the No. 57 position on the list.
The 2016 squad finished last season ranked 156 on the final NCAA RPI list. The 99-spot improvement is the best by a Conference USA school.
North Texas (14-13, 3-3 C-USA) is the fourth-highest rated C-USA school, and are the top team in the West division. Only Marshall, Florida Atlantic and FIU have a higher RPI rating than the Mean Green.
"As a staff, we have no doubt our program is headed in the right direction with the right kids in place," head coach Tracey Kee said. "Our players take every challenge head-on, which speaks volumes of their competitiveness and desire to improve."
Though being comprised of mainly underclassmen this season, Kee didn't shy away from scheduling difficult games for her team.
Instead, she challenged her team with the 17th-toughest schedule in the nation.
"I've always believed that scheduling hard will help develop a team and a program," Kee said. "Challenging your student-athletes, especially this young squad, will pay dividends down the road. It builds character, grit and lets them see their talent and potential."
The squad has risen to the occasion in non-conference games, knocking-off then No. 23 Baylor, sweeping Wichita State, while splitting with Saint Francis (Pa.) and Texas Tech. Wichita State and Texas Tech were both receiving votes in the USA Today/NFCA Coaches Poll at the time of the victories.
Individually, several players have excelled against the high-level of competition, with five players hitting over .300 in non-conference action, paced by senior Kelli Schkade's mark of .377. Freshman Lacy Gregory has collected 20 of her 26 RBI out of conference, which leads the team.
In the circle, senior Stacey Underwood is 6-4 on the season in non-conference action with six complete games and a 2.97 earned-run average, while limiting opponents to a .238 average.
North Texas has six non-conference games left with teams that rank in the top-50 of RPI.
"Our season is a marathon and not a sprint," Kee explained. "We will continue to improve our game, our fundamentals, and our approach at practice and on game day. Our remaining schedule does not get any easier, but our kids will no doubt accept this challenge."