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Valdivia ready to step up her game in her junior season

Megan Finneran | Thursday, February 25, 2010

Many little girls dream of being a princess, owning a pony or of becoming just like their moms. For junior pitcher Jody Valdivia, the dream was quite different.

When she was six years old, Valdivia began the game she would grow to love, following in the footsteps of her older brother Jesse, who played baseball.

“I knew that I wanted to do that too, so my parents put me on the softball field,” Valdivia said.

A highly successful high school career both on the field and in the classroom in California gave Valdivia a range of choices for college. The recruiting process brought her to Notre Dame, and from there her path became clear.

“The minute I stepped foot on the Notre Dame campus I knew I was home,” Valdivia said. “The coaches, my teammates and the atmosphere of Notre Dame were unlike any other school I had experienced. The tradition of academic excellence combined with athletic excellence made choosing Notre Dame very easy.”

Her first two years provided a growing experience and shaped her to the player and leader she has become. Last weekend at the Southern Miss Mizuno Classic, Valdivia led the Irish to three wins, striking out 13 players from Louisiana Tech in her sixth game in which she recorded more than 10 strikeouts.

Securing three wins for her team granted Valdivia the title of Big East conference Pitcher of the week.

“It felt really good to snag the first Big East Pitcher of the week honors,” Valdivia said. “Our team is looking to put together a strong preseason and receiving recognition for that always feels great.”

But when it comes down to the greatest moments of her career, it is not the individual accomplishments that stand out in Valdivia’s mind. While she said she will always fondly remember big games and the Big East championship, her best moments have come from playing with her teammates.

“They are the funniest group of girls and when I think of my best moments, I think of all the great things we accomplished together,” Valdivia said.

As a junior on a team with only three seniors, Valdivia has stepped up this year, as have her fellow teammates. In her mind, she said, the team this year is more united than ever, which makes each success and win a team accomplishment.

“When you step on the field it is a great feeling to know there are 17 other girls there to pick you up and support you,” Valdivia said. “Our team dynamics have never been in a better position and I have never felt more confident in my teammates than I do now, which makes our game stronger than ever.”

Of course, life as a college athlete is never easy. But Valdivia is one player who knows she is lucky to be where she is and have all her hard work pay off.

“It gets tiring running from classes to practices and trying to fit so many things into a few hours of the day but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I have been given an opportunity to play for the greatest team and that has given me one of the best college experiences a person could ever have,” Valdivia said.

Judging by her early achievements, Valdivia seems more than ready to lead the Irish to success this season.