The UNI Panthers have been picked for a third-place finish in the 2016 Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) softball race, according to a survey of the league's coaches.

The Panthers garnered one first-place vote and 74 points in the preseason poll. Wichita State, which graduated only four seniors in 2015, was chosen as the league favorite. The Shockers earned three first-place votes and 84 points, while Missouri State took second-place with 76 points and four first-place votes.

MVC officials announced results of the preseason survey on Wednesday (Jan. 27, 2016).

UNI returns six starters from a team that finished the 2015 season at 22-28. The Panthers posted a 15-10 conference record last year on their way to qualifying for the MVC Tournament for the seventh-straight season.

Among the returnees is MVC Preseason All-Conference honoree Chelsea Ross, who set a career-high in strikeouts (193) last season. Ross was named first-team All-MVC (UT/P) after tossing two no-hitters and tallying a team-high .347 batting average in conference play.

Three-year starter Caitlin Wnek was named second-team All-MVC after posting a .296 batting average and scoring a team-high 35 runs in 2015.

UNI's roster also includes two student-athletes who played high school softball in the Cedar Valley, freshman Brooke Craig from Waterloo Columbus Catholic and red-shirt freshman Kate Kinnetz from Waterloo East.

The Panthers begin their 2016 season at home next month, hosting Nebraska in the UNI-Dome Classic on Feb. 12 at 2:45 p.m.