Aug. 19, 2003
By Andrea Abney
Suzanne Dallas had the highest of hopes when she joined the University of California, Riverside softball program in the fall of 2001.
After a successful career at Atwater High, Dallas hoped to continue that success with the Highlanders -- a program that was rebuilding itself and finished 7-22 in Dallas' freshman year. She hoped that a new recruiting class would help improve the program going into her sophomore season.
By the end of her second quarter of school last season, with her coach resigning and the Highlanders struggling again, Dallas' hopes had faded.
"The new coach (Mike Smith) came in and changed everything," said Dallas, who was hitting .208 in the team's first 22 games with four runs and four RBIs. "I wasn't recruited by him and things didn't work out.
"It was really frustrating. Not so much because we weren't so good. The whole school didn't back the team up. There was no heart."
Riverside's loss was Santa Clara University's gain.
Dallas left school at the end of April last spring and returned to Atwater. A former travel ball coach told Santa Clara head coach Marcy Crouch about Dallas' situation, and Dallas committed to the Broncos in July.
"Things are a lot better," Dallas said. "The team's better. I know a lot of people who go there. I'm really excited. I haven't played for a good team for a long time -- in a couple of years."
Moving to Santa Clara will mean that Dallas will be closer to home, but it also means she can rejoin her best friend and former volleyball teammate Toni Muratore. Dallas has also teamed with a few of the Broncos in summer ball, so she doesn't think the transition will be a problem at all.
"I think the group of girls down at Santa Clara is a fun group," she said. "It'll make adjusting a lot easier for me."
The junior third baseman, a former four-time All-Central California Conference selection, will have a chance to make an immediate impact for Santa Clara.
"I never guarantee a spot before tryouts, but I absolutely see her in the starting lineup," Crouch said. "Part of the reason I'm really excited about her is because of her leadership ability. She knows the game of softball really, really well. She's a tough player who will come out there and work hard day in and day out. She's got a tough attitude we need to get the team to the next level."
The Broncos find themselves in a much better situation going into the season than Riverside did.
Crouch, the coach of the year in the Pacific Coast Softball Conference, guided the Broncos to a second-place finish with a school-record 30 wins last year. The coach said that she remembered Dallas as "by far the toughest out" when the teams played, and she's happy to have the addition to her team.
"We knew she would be somebody we'd love to get into our program," Crouch said. "She is going to have a good college career and I'm excited she's going to finish it up here."