OKLAHOMA CITY – With just over two weeks until the start of the 2022 NCAA Division I Softball season, USA Softball has announced the Top 50 “Watch List” for the 2022 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year award. Entering its 20th season, the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year award recognizes outstanding athletic achievement by Division I female collegiate softball players from across the nation.
Recognized as the most distinguished individual honor in NCAA Division I Softball, previous recipients of the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year award include Stacey Nuveman (UCLA - 2022), Cat Osterman (2003, 2005, 2006 - Texas), Jessica Van der Linden (Florida State - 2004), Monica Abbott (2007 - Tennessee), Angela Tincher (2008 - Virginia Tech), Danielle Lawrie (2009, 2010 - Washington), Ashley Hansen (Stanford – 2011), Keilani Ricketts (2012, 2013 – Oklahoma), Lacey Waldrop (2014 – Florida State), Lauren Haeger (2015 – Florida), Sierra Romero (2016 – Michigan), Kelly Barnhill (2017 – Florida), Rachel Garcia (2018, 2019 – UCLA) and Jocelyn Alo (2021 – Oklahoma). Due to the shortened 2020 season because of the COVID-19 global pandemic, a 2020 recipient was not chosen.
Following the NCAA decision to grant 2020 spring athletes an extra year of eligibility due to COVID-19, a total of ten student-athletes join the preseason “Watch List” for their fifth-year/graduate year. Also included in the “Watch List” are 24 seniors, eight juniors and eight sophomores. Freshmen are ineligible for consideration for the Top 50 “Watch List” but can be considered for the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year award once they have competed at the collegiate level.
The 2022 Top 50 “Watch List” is highlighted by 21 pitchers and 29 position players with athletes representing 27 different universities from across the country. Oklahoma leads the way with four athletes represented while Alabama, Florida, Michigan, Oklahoma State and UCLA are highlighted with three athletes apiece. A total of seven athletic conferences are represented in the preseason “Watch List” with the Southeastern Conference (SEC) accounting for nine member-schools followed by the Pac-12 and the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) with five schools apiece. Additionally, the Big 12 conference is represented by three college programs followed by two schools from the Big Ten conference and American Athletic Conference (AAC) and one school from the Western Athletic Conference (WAC).
The Top 25 Finalists for the 2022 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year award will be announced April 20. While an athlete does not have to be on the “Watch List” to be considered for the Top 25, the eventual USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year will come from the Top 25 Finalists. The Top 10 Finalists will be revealed May 4 with the Top 3 being released May 18. The 2022 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year will be announced prior to the NCAA Women’s College World Series.
In addition to crowning the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year, USA Softball is now in its 20th season of presenting the ESPN.com/USA Softball Collegiate Top 25 Poll which is announced on Tuesdays during the regular season. The 2022 Preseason ESPN.com/USA Softball Collegiate Top 25 Poll was released Jan. 25 with Oklahoma, Alabama, UCLA, Oklahoma State and Florida ranking in the Top 5 respectively.
Follow along with NCAA Softball all season long at USASoftball.com.