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    Conference Play at Virginia Tech

    STORRS, Conn. -- BIG EAST Conference play is on the horizon, as the University of Connecticut softball team travels to Virginia Tech for its first league game of the 2001 season on Saturday, March 31 at noon in Blacksburg, Va.

    This year, the BIG EAST adds more depth with two additions to the softball family - Virginia Tech and Syracuse. The Huskies finished 12-4 in BIG EAST competition last season and look to defend their preseason prediction by league coaches to finish second or better in the conference in 2001.

    Connecticut (8-13 overall) looks to rebound from eight combined losses from its southern spring break trip at the Florida State hosted Lady Seminole Invitational (Tallahassee, Fla.) and Georgia Tech hosted 2001 Buzz Classic (Marietta, Ga.), on March 16-25. UConn would go 3-8 over the two-week period with three consecutive wins against Princeton, Troy State and Cleveland State at the Buzz Classic.

    Virginia Tech, a new member school to the BIG EAST in 2001, currently leads the conference with a 20-12 overall and 2-0 BIG EAST record. The Hokies stole the top spot from No. 11 nationally- ranked Notre Dame, after amassing a 2-0 conference record with a series sweep of Boston College last weekend.

    Ironically, the last time Connecticut and VTech met was almost a year ago at the 2000 Buzz Classic, where the Huskies shut out the Hokies, 1-0, in seven innings in both teams’ first game against each other in school history. They will become more familiar with each other, now that the Hokies are members of the league and in the running for a berth in the postseason BIG EAST Tournament.

    The Huskies will also play neighboring Radford University in a single non-league game on Sunday, April 1 at noon to complete their weekend in Virginia.

    PROBABLE STARTING LINEUP

    1B #17 Abbie Link      (Senior/RR/Chalfont, PA) 
    2B #3 Lisa Girolamo    (Junior/RR/Ashby, MA) 
    3B #15 Mandy Simjian   (Senior/RR/Wallingford, CT) 
    SS #11 Jessica Yanosy  (Senior/RR/Milford, CT) 
    LF #20 Nicole Dubovik  (Sophomore/LL/Coral Springs, FL) 
    CF #12 Sarah Sandford  (Senior/LR/Carlsbad, NM) 
    RF #6 Elisa Brinkworth (Sophomore/RR/Amherst, NY) 
    DP #23 Megan Biddle    (Senior/RR/Bear, DE) 
    C  #24 Carrie Merritt  (Junior/RR/Ocean City, NJ) 
    P  #1 Barb Cook        (Sophomore/LR/Conklin, NY) 
    

    HOME RUN QUEENS

    Senior co-captain Mandy Simjian (Wallingford, CT) and senior Megan Biddle (Bear, DE) have been Connecticut’s top hitters in its last three spring tournaments. Simjian was named to the 2001 Buzz Classic All-Tournament Team after going 7-for-17 in five games, including a perfect 4-for-4 outing versus Troy State, where she also brought in the game-winning run for the 5-4 victory. Simjian also ripped in her second career home run against Maryland on March 24. Biddle, the Huskies’ designated player, is currently tied for fifth in the BIG EAST Conference with three home runs.

    COOK TO THE RESCUE

    Sophomore pitcher Barb Cook (Conklin, NY) earned her first career save against Troy State in relief of sophomore Claire Hesson (Kennebunkport, Maine) to secure the victory over the Lady Trojans on March 23. She went 2-0 at the 2001 Buzz Classic last weekend with a nine-inning win against Princeton and a 7-2 win versus Cleveland State. The Huskies’ ace currently ranks fifth in the BIG EAST Conference with 68.2 innings pitched in 14 appearances at the mound and is tied for fifth with seven complete games.

    FLORIDA SQUEEZE

    In its pre-BIG EAST Conference schedule, UConn nearly played all of Florida’s Division I softball schools in spring tournaments around the nation. The Huskies faced Florida, Florida Atlantic, Florida International, Florida A&M and No. 16 Florida State, but went 0-6 against the Sunshine State’s best teams.

    THE WINTER BLUES

    Sporadic snow storms through the Northeast region have put a hamper on home scheduled contests and travel for the Huskies. UConn’s home opener versus interstate rival Central Connecticut was cancelled on Wednesday, March 28, due to snowfall on the previous day and unplayable field conditions. On its trip to Miami for the 2001 Golden Panther Invitational, March 2-4, UConn was forced to stay two extra days in Florida due to cancelled airline flights into Hartford, CT.

    MORE BIG EAST STAT LEADERS

    Sophomore lead-off hitter Nicole Dubovik (Coral Springs, FL) continues to position herself among the best stolen base runners in the conference. She has totaled five in 21 games played...Senior first base Abbie Link (Chalfont, PA) has received nine walks at-bat this season to put her tied for fourth in that particular category. Last season, Link was one of Connecticut’s top sluggers with a .308 batting average in BIG EAST games and she will celebrate her 22nd birthday against VTech.

    FOLLOWING THE HUSKIES

    UConn Softball scores after each game can be accessed through the SNET Husky Sports Hotline by dialing 860-486-5050 from a touch tone phone. When prompted by the selection menu, press *6 for the latest UConn Softball news. For a more detailed game recap, log on to the Internet at

    PLAYING THE NATION’S BEST

    The 2001 season marks UConn’s second toughest schedule in school history. So far this year, Connecticut has played second-ranked Arizona and No. 16 Florida State. A homestand with No. 11 Notre Dame is just a week away on Saturday, April 7 at the UConn Softball Field in Storrs, CT. In 2000, the Huskies finished 37-17 with a final RPI rating of 28 and placed second behind the Fighting Irish in league play.

    DOUBLE DELIGHT

    Connecticut’s infield has recorded seven double plays to-date. The Huskies may be on course to match or break the single season record they set in 2000, with a team record 23 double plays turned.

    2001 BIG EAST CONFERENCE
    SOFTBALL STANDINGS

    Connecticut currently stands eighth in the BIG EAST Conference standings through games of March 25.

        School        BIG EAST Overall 
    1.  Virginia Tech   2-0     20-12 
    2.  Notre Dame (12) 0-0     18-3 
    3.  Villanova       0-0     12-2 
    4.  Providence      0-0     11-5 
    5.  Rutgers         0-0     10-8 
    6.  Seton Hall      0-0     6-5 
    7.  St. John’s      0-0     13-16 
    8.  Connecticut     0-0     8-13 
    9.  Syracuse        0-0     4-10 
    10. Pittsburgh      0-0     4-19 
    11. Boston College  0-2     13-11 
    

    BIG EAST AUTOMATIC BID

    The winner of the BIG EAST Conference Tournament (May 10-12 in Villanova, PA) receives the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament Field.

    CONFERENCE TOP OF THE LINE

    The BIG EAST Conference was rated the sixth best league out of 29 conferences in the country last season, according to the final RPI rankings. Notre Dame held an RPI of 13, UConn, 28, Virginia Tech, 44, Rutgers, 46, Villanova, 52, Seton Hall, 60, Syracuse, 91, Boston College, 92, Pittsburgh, 97 and St. John’s, 99, out of 243 Division I schools.

     

     

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