Jan. 27, 2004
SANTA CLARA, Calif. - The Santa Clara University softball team enters the 2004 season ready to build upon its success from last year. The Broncos posted a 30-25 record in 2003, setting a new single-season mark for wins. The 30 victories marked the most in school history for one season, surpassing the 1986 Bronco squad's 26-12 mark.
The Broncos are aiming for first place in the Pacific Coast Softball Conference after taking second place last year behind Loyola Marymount. Santa Clara is also looking toward post-season play with an at-large berth to the NCAA Tournament.
The Broncos' fall play was highlighted by their 2-1 win over Stanford. Santa Clara initially trailed the Cardinal 1-0, when junior Vanessa Werner hit a bunt single with one out in the seventh inning. Sophomore Jenny Brown then capitalized on the opportunity with a homerun to lead the Broncos to victory.
"There was a different attitude amongst the girls on the field this fall," head coach Marcy Crouch said. "It wasn't until the Stanford Tournament that I really understood the dynamic of our team - we love to compete. When we took the field there was a confidence, an attitude of determination, that was exciting to watch. I think it is partly due to the fact that this year is the first time we have newcomers coming into a winning program, and because our team knows that post-season play is an attainable goal."
Santa Clara also added a new weightlifting program this fall headed by strength and conditioning coach Eva Popper.
"Our schedule sticks to our philosophy that the only way to get better is to play against the best," Crouch continued. "We do not hide from the competition and I think the tough pre-season schedule will not only help us get a berth to the NCAA Regional, it will prepare us well for our PCSC competition."
During non-conference action, the Broncos will face five teams from the powerful Pacific-10 conference, including UCLA, last year's NCAA National Champions, as well as Washington, Stanford, California and Oregon State.
"A real important part of our schedule are teams that rank in the 20-50 spots in the RPI, which is the index used to determine post-season bids," Crouch explained. "Those teams include Long Beach State, San Diego State, Fresno State and Pacific. Wins over these teams will help us achieve our team goal of post-season play."
Conference action should be another battle for the title. The Broncos are expecting a great series again this year with defending champion Loyola Marymount, as well as Sacramento State, and St. Mary's.
The Broncos boast a strong staff of four pitchers this season, led by senior Jaime Forman-Lau, the 2003 PCSC Pitcher of the Year. Forman-Lau was also named second-team Pacific All-Region selection by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association, All-Conference first team and earned seven PCSC Pitcher of the Week honors. She ended the season with 279 strikeouts, 11 shutouts, 21 wins and a 1.32 ERA. Forman-Lau also was named the team's Most Valuable Defensive Player last season.
"Jaime is such as asset to this staff for so many reasons, not just because of her talent,"
Junior Kelley Johnson will see time in the circle this season, as she worked hard during fall play to improve her game. Crouch added, "Kelley has really found her groove; she throws hard and has made great strides since last year. We are excited for a good season."
A competitor on the mound, sophomore Liz Courter is also looking to build on the progress she made last season. Crouch said Courter added more leg drive to her wind up, which will lead to more velocity and consistency.
The newest addition to the Bronco pitching staff is Sara Overmier. She is very comfortable on the mound and will battle any batter. "Sara has great movement on the ball and is a great addition to our staff," Crouch added.
Senior Rachel Sherman will anchor the infield from behind the plate. Splitting time with Santa Clara graduate Roni Rivera last year, Sherman will take over the daily duties this season. Sherman brings tremendous passion for the game to the team. She has a strong arm with the ability to throw out runners at second. Sherman demonstrates power at the plate and will hit in the middle of the line-up.
Sophomore Kate Goethals made the move this season from the bullpen catcher to the number two spot. Goethals will compete for the designated player position when she is not catching.
The Broncos will boast a very solid infield this year. Holding down the middle infield positions will be returning second baseman Brown and sophomore shortstop Shannon Linerud.
Linerud also started every contest. She has a great arm and good speed. Look for Linerud to hit in the middle of the lineup. "I am very pleased with the progress that Jenny and Shannon made last year," Crouch continued. "They were able to come in this fall and build from where they ended last season. They are now comfortable with the mechanics and footwork that we expect and are going to lay very solid defense for our pitchers."
Newcomer Angela Kabanuck will also see time at shortstop. She is very athletic with great foot speed and an aggressive style of play.
With junior Lacey Smale redshirting the season due to a back injury, the battle for time at first base will be between Johnson and freshman Valerie Mock. Johnson possesses good speed and is familiar with the way the Bronco defense is run in regards to bunt coverage and philosophy. She returns off a great offensive season for Santa Clara where she was awarded the Miss Clutch by her teammates. She has power and speed at the plate and will hit in the middle of the line-up this season.
Mock has a lot of experience at the position and has soft hands that will be able to scoop anything thrown her way. Johnson and Mock have worked hard in the off-season to earn the position. "I look forward to them carrying their momentum through the season," Crouch added.
Splitting time at third base will be transfer Suzanne Dallas and Werner. Dallas has quick reactions, soft hands and a real feel for the game. She is a veteran third baseman and she has a real talent for the position. Dallas remains relaxed under pressure and is very consistent in all aspects of the game. Dallas was voted as Rookie of the Year by her teammates at UC Riverside and she maintained a .260 batting average her freshman year. She will hit in the middle of the line-up.
As a starter at third last season, Werner demonstrated excellent footspeed and her ability to move to the ball. She was named to the All-Conference second team. She made significant contributions to the Bronco offense last season after switching to the left side of the plate. "We are looking for Vanessa to hit in the top of the line-up and improve upon last years batting average and on base percentage," Crouch said.
Look for Clee to start in left field. She is a power hitter who led the team with five homeruns last season. "Jess is a real threat at the plate because of her combination of balance and speed," Crouch said. "She can beat out a bunt single and then take the ball over the fence on her next at-bat."
Kabanuck will anchor the outfield at center when not seeing time at shortstop. She is a fierce competitor and aggressive player. She will hit at the top of the line-up and her speed will be a threat to opponents.
Reisinger and Werner will compete for time in right field. Reisinger has one of the strongest arms in the outfield and has two years of experience under her belt.
Both Cassel and Overmier will look to earn time in the outfield.
"Starting in the pitching circle and continuing throughout the entire team, we will be very solid with concrete fundamentals and good speed," Crouch concluded.