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ND Softball: Squad set for return to action

Molly Sammon | Thursday, March 5, 2009

With spring break approaching, Notre Dame anticipates a long week of play in the southwestern portion of the country, playing a group of teams with different abilities.

The Irish traveled to North Carolina State for the Wolfpack Invitational last weekend, only to later find out all games were cancelled due to excessive rain.

“Not being able to play was really boring because we were just sitting in the hotel room,” sophomore shortstop Katie Fleury said. “You can’t do any form of activity at all.”

The first stop for the team next week will be the University of Nevada-Las Vegas’s invitational tournament, where the Irish will have three full days of playing, facing Texas Tech twice, UNLV, UC-Santa Barbara and UCLA.

“We need to have a competitive edge. It’s more fun to play against them because they are much better competition,” Fleury said. “It’s much more of a challenge.”

The team will then travel to Fullerton, Calif., to compete in the Judi-Garman Classic, where the Irish will play Penn State, Oklahoma, Pacific, Arizona and Arizona State to conclude their spring break tournaments. Much of the season’s major competition will be seen at this tournament, as Arizona, Oklahoma, Arizona State and UCLA all finished in the top 20 last season.

“Arizona State will be our biggest challenge. They’ve won the national championships the most over the years,” Fleury said. “But I’m sure they’ll all be just as tough.”

With the last few days on campus before these back-to-back tournaments, the team has been focusing on getting in as much practice as possible.

“We’ve been hitting a lot, taking a lot of ground balls, hitting off live pitching, and having the coaches pitch to us, so we can see as many pitches as we can,” Fleury said.

Last time the teams played, the Irish beat Sacramento State 11-0 at Stanford’s Nike Invitational in Palo Alto, Calif. Fleury said that tournament boosted Notre Dame’s confidence.

“Our pitching and the fact that we improved so much from the first weekend to the second weekend makes us ready,” Fleury said.

This spring break trip marks the last consecutive tournament away from South Bend, as the team will begin to host teams the week after spring break.