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ND Softball

Irish set off for southern California to start season

| Friday, February 6, 2015

After ending last season with a 1-0 loss to UCLA in the NCAA Regionals in Los Angeles, Notre Dame begins its 2015 campaign with a trip back to southern California for the So Cal Collegiate Classic this weekend.

The Irish posted a 41-13 record last season, reaching the 40-win plateau for the sixth straight season, and finished in the top 25 en route to setting program records in team on-base percentage (.419), batting average (.357), total hits (533) and doubles (107).

Junior catcher/outfielder Casey Africano swings during Notre Dame's 11-4 win over Michigan State on Apr. 2 at Melissa Cook Stadium.Emily McConville | The Observer

Junior catcher/outfielder Casey Africano swings during Notre Dame’s 11-4 win over Michigan State on Apr. 2 at Melissa Cook Stadium.

This season, two senior captains will lead the Irish: second baseman Jenna Simon and outfielder Emilee Koerner.

“We’re excited to get our season started,” Simon said. “Everyone has put in a lot of hard work this offseason in order to make this team successful, and we’re excited to show what we have to the rest of the country. We want to dominate in the ACC this year, win a regional and continue to take Notre Dame softball to dominance.”

Simon, who was named to the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) Mid-Atlantic second team last season, helped lead the Irish to an appearance in the ACC championship game in just their first season in the conference. Simon hit for a .359 average along with 20 stolen bases and 39 runs scored last season.

Notre Dame starts its weekend off with a pair of games Friday. The Irish will take on Utah before playing No. 6 UCLA in an NCAA regional rematch.

The Irish have used the season-ending loss to UCLA as motivation for this season, Simon said.

“Ending a season is a horrible feeling any way it happens, and we have used that loss as fuel to motivate ourselves and our team to be better this year,” Simon said. “We have worked really hard on the fundamentals of the game, which will help us continue to win late in the season. We have a very experienced team, and we are confident in our ability to beat any team we play.”

Koerner said she is confident in Notre Dame’s chances to win the program’s first ACC title. The two-time NFCA All-American and California native set the single-season program record for doubles (28) last year and the record for most doubles in a career with 61.

“Every year we’ve played here the experience gets more and more special,” Koerner said. “With that being said, this year does not feel different from any other year we’ve played. Our goals are still the same, and that’s to bring Notre Dame softball to dominance and go somewhere we’ve never been before. We have small goals within our season as well, such as hosting our own regional and dominating the ACC.”

After playing UCLA, Notre Dame faces Northwestern State on Saturday morning and Cal State Fullerton later that evening. The Irish wrap up the So Cal Collegiate Classic on Sunday with a second matchup against Cal State Fullerton.

This season, Koerner and the Irish have shifted their focus to their own game.

“We have made it a point to focus much more on ourselves and not on our opponents this year,” Koerner said. “We believe if we can make ourselves the best Notre Dame softball team possible, there’s no one out there that can beat us.”

The Irish start their season Friday at 4 p.m against Utah and 9 p.m. against UCLA at Easton Stadium in Los Angeles. Notre Dame continues play Saturday at Anderson Family Field in Fullerton, California, taking on Northwestern State at 2 p.m. and Cal State Fullerton at 4:30 p.m. before wrapping up against Cal State Fullerton at 1 p.m. Sunday.

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About Manuel De Jesus

Manuel De Jesus is a junior from Chicago, Illinois. He is an American Studies major with a minor in Journalism, Ethics and Democracy. He is currently covering ND Volleyball, Men's Soccer and Men's Basketball.

Contact Manuel