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Team ready to go out west

Justin Schuver | Friday, February 18, 2005

There won’t be rest for the Irish this weekend as they travel to San Diego State to participate in the Campbell-Cartier Tournament. Notre Dame (3-2) will face three ranked teams at the event, in addition to the hometown Aztecs, as the Irish attempt to win their second-straight early-season tournament. Notre Dame won the Gainesville Regional Utilities Classic in Florida last weekend.The Irish open against Utah tomorrow at noon, then face No. 21/18 Fresno State at 4 p.m. Notre Dame returns to action Saturday, taking on No. 3/4 UCLA at 4 p.m. before facing San Diego State two hours later. The Irish then close out tournament play with a matchup against No. 22/24 Long Beach State.Notre Dame has already played four games against ranked opponents this season, splitting with both No. 19 Florida and No. 21 South Florida at the GRU Classic.”We do our schedule that way on purpose,” Irish head coach Deanna Gumpf said. “I really don’t think our girls would have it any other way. We want to play the best, because then we know we can beat the best.”The Irish started that weekend tournament with consecutive losses to Florida and South Florida, but then rattled off three consecutive victories – including rematch wins over Florida and South Florida – on their way to the tournament championship. During those three wins, Irish pitchers held their opponents to just 10 hits in 21 innings.”[Starters] Heather [Booth] and Steffany [Stenglein] were great in Florida, but they’re going to have to be even better this weekend because we’re playing better competition,” Gumpf said. “They’ve already fought hardest when the team needed them to step up and make big pitches. I think if they continue to fight like that all season, they’re going to be real successful.”Notre Dame handed Florida its first loss of the season. The Gators came into the championship game of the GRU tournament with an 11-0 record. Notre Dame’s game against UCLA is a chance for the Irish to square off against one of the top softball powers in the country. The Bruins have won the NCAA championship in softball nine times, and hold a 2-0 lifetime record against the Irish.”We’re really excited to [play a team like UCLA],” Gumpf said. “We’re playing well right now and really think they’re a team we can compete with and beat.”The game against Utah is an interesting matchup, as Irish assistant coach Charmelle Green returns to her alma mater. Notre Dame has a 2-0 record against the Utes, including a 4-3 victory last season at the Palm Springs Classic. This weekend’s trip to San Diego is the first visit Notre Dame has made to the California city. It will be a return home for the seven California natives on the Irish roster this season -Booth, Liz Hartmann, Carissa Jaquish, Mallorie Lenn, Meagan Ruthrauff, Stenglein and Carrie Wisen. Notre Dame will return to California two more times this year, traveling to Palm Springs for a tournament Feb. 25-27 and to Los Angeles Mar. 6-7 for a doubleheader with Loyola Marymount and a single came against California-Santa Barbara.The Irish will remain on the road until March 23, the team’s first game at home against Western Michigan. Barring cancellations, the Irish are scheduled to have already played 27 games at that point.”I’d like for this team to get to the point where it doesn’t matter where we play,” Gumpf said. “It’s nice to be at home, but I think we’d rather get to where we can win just as easily on the road. In the long run I think playing all these games on the road will help us tremendously.”