LOUISVILLE, Ky. --- Moravian College seniors catcher Janae Matos and pitcher Josie Novak are among the 50 softball players chosen for the 2018 Schutt Sports/NFCA Division III National Player of the Year watch list, which will be paired down in the coming months, until just one player remains at the conclusion of the season.
Twenty-nine returning NFCA All-Americans top the list, including 11 first-team honorees, 11 second-team selections and seven from last year's third team. The remaining 21 members of the group all earned first-team NFCA All-Region recognition last season. Matos was named to the 2017 NFCA Division III All-America First Team and was also selected as the Diamond Sports NCAA Division III Catcher of the Year while Novak was selected to the NFCA All-America Second Team.
Last spring, Matos recorded one of the best seasons in school history and had a list of honors that included the two NFCA awards as well as CoSIDA Division III Softball Academic All-America Third Team, the 2017 Landmark Conference Player of the Year, the 2017 ECAC Division III Metro Player of the Year, the National Fastpitch Coaches Association All-Atlantic Region First Team, the Landmark All-Conference First Team for a second straight spring, the ECAC Division III Metro All-Star First Team and the Landmark Conference Spring Academic Honor Roll. Matos led the Hounds at the plate with a .523 average one 56 hits to go with 23 runs, a school-record 22 doubles, three home runs, 45 RBIs, 24 walks including four intentional base on balls, a .621 on-base percentage and an .813 slugging percentage. Matos made a team-high 203 putouts behind the plate to go with 13 assists, and she became the 44th member of Moravian's 100-hit club.
Novak also had a long list of honors in 2017 season including the 2017 Landmark Conference Pitcher of the Year for a second consecutive year, the ECAC Division III Metro Pitcher of the Year for the second season in a row, the NFCA All-Atlantic Region First Team, the Landmark All-Conference First Team, the ECAC Division III All-Star First Team and the Landmark Conference Spring Academic Honor Roll. Last spring, Novak recorded an 18-3 mark in the circle, and she post a 0.77 ERA, the fifth-best season in school history, two saves, 13 shutouts, the third most in a single season at Moravian, 20 walks and a conference-leading 144 strikeouts in 135.2 innings in the circle. Novak enters the 2018 season with a career total of 474 strikeouts, the third player in school history to reach 400 career strikeouts, and her 56 career victories are fifth in the Moravian record books.
Reigning national champion Virginia Wesleyan University, who the Greyhounds will face in March at the NCFA Division III Leadoff Classic in Arizona, and NCAA regional finalist Luther College have three players each on the initial list, including the Marlins' lefty ace Hanna Hull, who won both Schutt Sports/NFCA National Freshman and Player of the Year honors last season. Eight others — Birmingham-Southern College, Moravian, Salisbury University, St. Catherine University, St. John Fisher College, St. Olaf College, the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and Williams College — all have two players apiece, while 28 schools have one selection. There are 24 seniors, 19 juniors and seven sophomores in the group. View the full list at https://nfca.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=7652:fifty-players-in-mix-for-2018-schutt-sports-nfca-division-iii-national-player-of-year&catid=148&Itemid=149.
The list is compiled annually by the NFCA's Division III All-America committee. The list will subsequently be cut to 25 and 10 as the season progresses, before the winner is chosen following the completion of the NCAA Championship. The list will be adjusted along the way to assure the best players are being considered, with the eventual winner coming from the group of 10 finalists.
Moravian is slated to begin the 2018 season on Saturday, February 24 with a non-conference doubleheader at Gwynedd Mercy University before heading to Arizona for six games in the NFCA Leadoff Classic and six contests in the Tucson Invitational.
Parts of release courtesy of NFCA