It seems that Florida is the place to be during February.
By hosting the USF Wilson Tournament, the Bulls welcome Jacksonville, as well as four teams that begin their season.
No.17 Notre Dame, Rhode Island, Kent State and Hofstra all come to Tampa for their first games of the year. The matchups won’t be easy for the Bulls (7-4), who are coming off a 1-3 outing at the University of Florida GRU Classsic last weekend.
Despite a losing record at UF, the Bulls defeated No. 8 Oklahoma.
Senior outfielder Renee Oursler said this weekend will be yet another test for the young squad.
“This weekend, we are playing some really good teams,” Oursler said. “We play Jacksonville again, and Notre Dame should be a great game. I am very pumped up to go out and dominate this weekend.”
The Fighting Irish were the preseason pick to capture the Big East, as they come off a 44-17 season with a Big East record of 18-2. Senior All-American Andrea Loman and sophomore Megan Ciolli were the top hitters for Notre Dame, batting .377 and .345, respectively, to lead the team in 2002.
Loman cracked 14 home runs and 43 RBI, while Ciolli led the team with 67 hits and 24 RBI. Sophomore Carrie Wisen will be the ace for Notre Dame, as she compiled a 17-5 record, along with a 2.00 earned runs allowed average and 116 strikeouts in 2002.
Later Saturday, the Bulls will take on Jacksonville for the third time this season. The Bulls shut out the Dolphins 6-0 and 2-0 in their previous games.
Since that weekend, Jacksonville has only won one game for a record of 1-6. Freshman Jill Bandhauer and junior Bridget Starry are batting .400 and .333, respectively to lead the Dolphins.
Errors have been a vice for the Dolphins, as they have had 15 in the last seven games.
The Rhode Island Rams went 20-29 last year, going 12-9 in Atlantic 10 play. Junior Gabby Zagami is the only returning starter who batted over .300 for Rhode Island last year, batting .343 with 49 hits and 25 RBI in 2002.
Kent State begins its season after coming off a 19-27 2002 campaign. Senior Lea Dorto returns for the Golden Flashes after batting .314 with seven home runs and 25 RBI in 2002.
The 2002 Colonial Athletic Association champion, Hofstra University finished the season with a 14-game winning streak, the best in the nation heading into 2003. Finishing 28-25, senior Heather Brousseau returns as the top starter. Brousseau batted .333 with 50 hits and three home runs.
“Rhode Island, Kent State and Hofstra should also be really good games,” Oursler said. “The team is excited to get back to playing again.”
Thomas Carrigan covers softball for and can be reached at email@example.com