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ND Softball: Team opens season in Florida

Katie Heit | Friday, February 18, 2011

The Irish begin their season this weekend in Orlando, Fla., in the UCF Invitational. With two fifth-year seniors and an additional six seniors in the lineup, there is no shortage of seasoned players ready to lead the Irish into the weekend’s games.

Fifth-year senior catcher Alexia Clay is excited for her team to really come together this season.

“I think that it’s going to be a collaborative team effort,” Clay said. “We really are going to pull from the whole team because I feel like that’s one of our big goals this year — to have a unified team.”

In the tournament this weekend, the Irish will face Central Florida, Delaware, Miami (OH) and Illinois-Chicago.

Captain and fellow fifth-year senior Heather Johnson isn’t concerned about the caliber of the teams this weekend.

“No matter who we’re playing, we play Notre Dame style and we do our job and get things done,” Johnson said. “If everyone’s done what they needed to do, then we feel like we’ve done exactly what we’ve set out to do.”

Johnson is looking forward to using her last year to lead the team to the post season.

“This is my last year and I really want to do whatever I can to help the team and just do my job,” Johnson said. “I just want to go out there and give my team the best shot to win a national championship.”

Clay is returning after a shoulder surgery that took her out of last year’s season. She has her own personal goals of recovery this season.

“I just want to make an impact for the team,” she said. “I really would like to get back to my own self, which is a great hitter, so I’d really like to hit above .330 and get 15 home runs, but I’m feeling really good. It’s just nice to be back on the field.”

With the returning seniors, a strong team of underclassmen and one of the premier coaches in the country, the team is eager and ready to take on a new season. Clay said the team sought to improve some flaws during the off-season.

“I think that the team has done really well improving on things in the off season, refining some raw talent and being unified on the field,” Clay said. “We’re still going to be working on those things, so I think that’s going to be one of the key things to help us be successful. Being unified on the field. The team this year has done a really good job of getting individual jobs done and working hard, so just kind of putting everyone’s efforts together.”

Johnson feels confident in their team’s ability to succeed this season.

“We have strengths in every area,” Johnson said. “Our defense has improved, our pitching is where it needs to be. We’ve worked out all the kinks. We’re clicking right now and feeling pretty confident about the direction we’re headed.”

Clay had something different to say on the matter.

“We’re Notre Dame. It really doesn’t matter who we’re playing. Hopefully if we play our best game, it will beat their best game,” she said.

The Irish will kick off their season today at 2 p.m.