In a star-studded freshman class, it can be easy to miss Ashli Goff. After all, both Ashli and her identical twin sister, Courtney, stand at just 5-foot-3.
Infielder Kourtney Salvarola came to USF with experience with the USA junior national team. Fellow freshmen Sara Nevins and Stephanie Medina have been named Big East Pitcher of the Week and Player of the Week, respectively, twice this season.
But coach Ken Eriksen hasnt overlooked Goff, allowing her to start in 44 of the 46 games shes played this season. Shes become a fixture in the lineup, batting second and playing right field. Her sister has played in 35 of USFs 48 games.
Theres no question (Goff is overlooked), Eriksen said. Salvarola comes in here with all the USA stuff on, and shes done a pretty good job. Medina comes in here and goes lights out and Nevins does what she does, but then theres just that little rat right there thats batting .370 or something like that. Her on-base percentage is around .400, shes got 20 stolen bases or close to that. (She) sacrifices, moves the runners, makes the plays in the outfield.
Goff, who attended Sickles High School in Tampa, said she didnt expect to adjust to the college game so early in her career, despite earning all-county honors in 2009 and 2010.
I wasnt expecting to do, I guess, this well because I thought going into college the pitchers they are a lot harder than high school, she said. Pitching is the main (difference), and then the speed of the game. In high school, its laid back more. The plays arent as creative.
Eriksen said that when opponents play USF, they are routinely surprised by Goffs diminutive stature.
Everybody is like, Wheres that Goff kid thats hitting .370? Is that her right there? Are you kidding me? Is that her? Five-foot-whatever? Yeah, thats her, thats Clutch. Thats her nickname on our team because shes gotten clutch RBIs and clutch hits for our team. Both (Goffs) have been overlooked.
If Goff stays hot offensively, USF has a chance to win the Big East regular-season title. With five conference games remaining, the Bulls (32-16, 12-1) are tied with DePaul at the top of the Big East standings.
Third-place Notre Dame visits Tampa for a doubleheader today beginning at 11 a.m. Nevins gets the start in game one.
With the 2010-11 academic year nearing its finale, The Oracle looks back on a year of athletic achievement and names the top 10 USF athletes of the year:
5) Jeff Attinella, mens soccer
Attinella, a goalkeeper, played every minute of his senior season, posting a goals-against average of 0.78.
He posted 10 shutouts this season, including a USF-record streak of six consecutive shutouts that began Sept. 29 against Rhode Island and ended Oct. 16 against West Virginia.
Attinella was a three-year starter for the Bulls, playing in 61 games during his college career. He posted 28 shutouts and was named the Big East Goalkeeper of the Year in 2009.
4) Andrea Smith, womens basketball
In her first year at USF after transferring from Gulf Coast Community College, Smith started all 31 games as a guard, playing 980 minutes 200 more than anyone else. She was the only player on the team to start every game.
Smith led the team in scoring, averaging 16.5 points per game nearly a third of the teams 60.4 points per game average and nearly double the production of the teams next highest scorer and her twin sister, Andrell Smith.
Against Auburn on Nov. 22, in her fifth game for USF, Smith scored a season-high 33 points in the Bulls 67-49 win over the Tigers.
Her season ended abruptly March 4, when she tore her ACL less than a minute into USFs first game of the Big East tournament against Pittsburgh.
3) Denise von Eynatten, track and field
Von Eynatten took home the Big East Indoor Pole Vaulting championship this season after posting a jump of 14 feet, 1.75 inches a new Big East, USF and personal record.
At one point, von Eynatten was ranked No. 6 in the NCAA and qualified for the indoor national championship meet.
Von Eynatten also took home the title after the Jayhawk Classic in Lawrence, Kan., with a jump of 14 feet. At the NCAA Indoor Championships, von Eynatten finished fifth with a height of 14 feet, 1.25 inches.
2) Terrence Mitchell, football
Mitchell, from Hillsborough High School, came to USF as one of the highest-rated prospects ever to enter the program.
In his freshman year, he excelled as a punt returner and also transitioned from cornerback to wide receiver. For his efforts as a returner, Mitchell was named a first-team freshman All-American by Rivals.com, and was chosen to the all-Big East freshman team by ESPN.com.
His average of 11 yards per return was 23rd best nationally and best among freshmen.
1) Freshman class, softball
Coach Ken Eriksens freshman class is loaded with potential stars, making the softball team USFs most likely to win a Big East conference title in the future. With two weeks left in the season, the team is tied for the conference lead.
Infielder Kourtney Salvarola came to USF as the No. 5 prospect nationwide and has started every game this season, splitting time between shortstop and third base. She is batting .300 with six home runs and 40 RBIs.
Pitcher Sara Nevins is 14-5 this season with a 1.71 ERA and 170 strikeouts. She has been named the Big East Pitcher of the Week twice this season and set a new school record with eight saves. She has pitched complete-game shutouts in each of her last five starts.
First baseman Stephanie Medina is batting .364 and leads the team in home runs (eight), RBIs (49) and total bases (77). She has been named Big East Player of the Week twice this season.
The other five members of the freshman class have all seen action this season and have potential to be future stars for the program.