Jan. 28, 2008
Orlando, Fla. (www.ucfathletics.com) - Following a 2007 season in which the Knights broke over 30 total program single-season, game and career records and placed third in the Conference USA Championship, the UCF softball team gears up for another successful campaign in C-USA.
The Black and Gold returns seven of its 10 starters from a year ago, depth that the Knights have not had since the 2005 regional-qualifying squad. The 2008 roster features five seniors, including two players who have experienced the thrill of winning a conference championship and look to lead the Knights to their second-consecutive trip to the league tournament. To qualify for the three-day C-USA event, UCF needs to finish in the top six in the regular-season league standings. A key factor that will help the Knights is their impressive schedule.
The Black and Gold opens the season at home hosting the UCF Tournament Feb. 8-10, where it takes on NC State on Feb. 8. The Wolfpack ranked as high as No. 23 on the USA Today/NFCA Top 25 poll in 2007. The tournament field also includes Illinois State, Missouri-Kansas City, Central Arkansas and Kansas.
The Knights are set to spend their spring break in Honolulu, Hawaii, at the Hawaii Paradise Classic, Feb. 14-17. UCF faces the host Hawaii on Feb. 15. Hawaii finished the 2007 season ranked No. 12 in the final coachs' poll. UCF also faces Long Beach State and Kentucky before entering bracket play.
The Knights return to the UCF Softball Complex to host their second UCF Tournament of the season, Feb. 22-24, with Drake, George Mason, Birmingham-Southern, Auburn and Michigan all scheduled to play.
UCF will square-off against NCAA Regional Champion Michigan in the tournament on Feb. 23 and welcome the Wolverines back to Orlando for a Feb. 27 match-up.
The Altamonte Springs Tournament concludes the Knights' February schedule taking place Feb. 29-March 2. Luers-Gillispie's squad will play the USA Olympic Team on opening day of the event, while also facing Florida A&M, Villanova and Vermont and Maryland.
UCF makes its 2008 C-USA debut at home against East Carolina, March 8-9, in a three-game series. The Knights will also host league series against Tulsa, Houston and Memphis, while playing road series versus UAB, Marshall, UTEP and Southern Miss.
The Black and Gold faces non-conference competition throughout the entire season, playing back-to-back doubleheaders against Sam Houston State, Liberty and Baylor. Baylor finished last season ranked No. 5 and lost to eventual national champion Arizona in the 2007 NCAA Super Regional.
The Knights play Jacksonville, Stetson and Bethune-Cookman both home and away, while Iowa and in-state rival Florida State also travel to Orlando in non-conference action. On the road, UCF goes head-to-head with NCAA Regional champion Florida, before traveling to FAU and FIU.
The 2008 C-USA Softball Championships will be held in Houston, Texas May 8-10.
"We definitely upgraded our schedule for 2008," head coach Luers-Gillispie said. "We are facing the top Florida schools with Florida State, Florida, Florida Atlantic and Florida International, and we are bringing in Michigan, Iowa and Kansas and Baylor. We will face our biggest challenge when we face the USA Olympic Team in the Altamonte Springs Tournament. The schedule overall has been improved as far as the level of play. We are trying to get a lot more top-25 teams on our schedule, which means the girls are going to have to step up. I expect a lot out of our players. We have five seniors that we are looking to step into a leadership role their final season."
The Knights return their full pitching staff from last season, a quartet that finished the season ranked fourth in the nation in ERA. In her junior season, Allison Kime proved she was not just your average fireballer. The Brandon, Fla., native struck out a program record 266 batters while posting a 0.87 ERA, fourth-best in the nation, in 266.1 innings of work. Kime was 24-13 with 34 complete games and a program-record 15 shutouts in 40 appearances. For her efforts Kime earned a spot on the All-Southeast Region First Team.
"Allison Kime was amazing last year and she will have an amazing senior season," Luers-Gillispie said. "She is a very strong leader in the circle. We need to support her with a productive offense and defense."
In 23 appearances in the circle, Ashleigh Cole went 8-9 with a 1.93 ERA and 65 strikeouts. Redshirt sophomore Lexi Gresham registered 41 strikeouts in 58.2 innings of work, posting a 5-4 record and a 2.27 ERA. Magon Paul saw picked up a shutout victory and did not allow a run in eight innings of work.
"Magon will compete for the designated player position this year and will also provide depth at first base," Luers-Gillispie said.
"Ashleigh Cole will benefit from her experience last season and we will count on her in 2008," Luers-Gillispie stated. "Lexi Gresham will be key for us in the circle coming back healthy and strong. I believe that she will have her best season for the Knights in 2008."
UCF added one more piece to the pitching puzzle for the 2008 season in Diana Rojas. The freshman from Miami, Fla., was named to the Florida Class 6A All-State Team her junior and senior seasons.
"Diana Rojas is a very talented young pitcher and she is an excellent addition on the mound," Luers-Gillispie said.
Senior Cat Snapp and junior Lindsay Dean split time behind the plate for the second-consecutive season, combining for 404 putouts and 25 assists, while throwing out seven baserunners. Dean returns as one of the Knights' top hitters, batting .235 with 19 hits and 16 runs scored in 2007.
"Cat Snapp and Lindsay Dean will give our program a lot of support and leadership behind the plate this season," Luers-Gillispie said.
Breanne Javier played in all 64 games for the Knights last season, including 63 at first base. The junior paced C-USA with 518 putouts and 18 double plays turned at her position. Javier also returns as the Knights top hitter, being named to the All-C-USA First Team and the C-USA Championship All-Tournament Team after hitting .326 with 25 RBI and 11 doubles on the season.
"Breanne Javier is the core strength of the infield," Luers-Gillispie stated. "She will solidify the young freshmen and sophomores that we have in the infield."
Freshman Abby McClain will get the start for the Knights at second base in 2008. A native of Waterloo, Iowa, McClain was named all-district, all-metro and all-conference, and was an all-state honorable mention pick in her lone season playing for West High School. Following her freshman season, she played for the Minnesota Irish Gold of the Amatuer Softball Association (ASA).
"We are looking at using Abby McClain at second base as well as behind the plate," Luers-Gillispie said. "She will be a solid three-four hitter for us."
A pair of new faces will be seeing time at the shortstop position in 2008. Freshmen Tiffany Lane and Brittany Hipple will both see time at the middle-infield spot, bringing with them impressive credentials. Following her senior season at Canyon Springs High School in Moreno Valley, Calif., Lane was named to the All-Inland Valley First Team as well as being named to the CIF-Southern Section Second Team. The lead-off hitter posted a .521 batting average and led her team with a .607 on-base percentage and 23 stolen bases. Hipple was named to the Florida 5A All-State Team and was named the Sarasota Herald Player of the Year after her senior season at Venice High School.
"Our infield will receive a lot of great help from our freshman class with Tiffany Lane and Brittany Hipple at shortstop," Luers-Gillispie said. "Hipple will also see some time at third."
Hillary Barrow takes over third base for her sophomore campaign after starting all 64 games at second base as a freshman. She had a .268 average at the plate with 15 RBI and seven doubles. She was named to the C-USA All-Freshman Team at the conclusion of the 2007 season.
"Hillary Barrow showed that she has what it takes to start for us at third base this season," Luers-Gillispie said.
After making the move from second base to right field in 2007, Ashley Van Ryn will make one last move in her career to center field. She played in 59 games for the Knights at the right field position, recording four assists and 37 putouts. Redshirt junior Marquita Council will take over right field after redshirting with an injury. A transfer from Santa Fe Community College, Council led her team with 30 stolen bases and a .475 on base percentage in 2005. Senior Megan Murphy and Morgan Bullard will vie for the left field spot after splitting time at the position a year ago. Bullard appeared in 51 games and scored 10 runs, while Murphy played in 45 games, recording 18 hits and 11 RBI.
"Ashley Van Ryn is anchoring us in center field and redshirt junior Marquita Council will get the start in right field," Luers-Gillispie stated. "Morgan Bullard made huge stride during the fall season and has earned the starting nod in left field for the 2008 season.
Eight different players earned at least one start at the designated player position in 2007, with Cole, Kime and Shelly Frick seeing the most nods. The same trio, along with Megan Murphy, will see time again at the spot in 2008, with Kime, Frick and Murphy bringing senior leadership to the role.
"With Shelly Frick coming back as a senior, I am looking for her to anchor that DP spot," Luers-Gillispie said. "She has the capabilities to come in and be that DP that we need. We are fortunate to have Megan Murphy as a utility player and designated player. She is poised to have a great senior year."
The softball team will make its 2008 debut at the UCF Softball Complex when they host the UCF Tournament Feb. 8-10 facing-off against Illinois State, NC State, Kansas and Central Arkansas. Season tickets for the 2008 season are now available and can be purchased by calling 407-UCF-1000.
For the latest news and information on the Knights, tickets or apparel log on to www.ucfathletics.com - the official site for UCF varsity sports. Also check out UCFPhotos.com, the exclusive fan source for UCF action sports pics.