Bryanne Durrence and the Utah softball team begin play at the BYU/UVSC Tournament this weekend.
Feb. 1, 2005
The Lineup: Intrastate rivals are on the docket this week as the University of Utah softball team begins the 2005 campaign. The BYU/UVSC tournament in St. George, Utah, has the Utes playing Utah Valley State (2 p.m.) and Southern Utah (4 p.m.) on Friday, Feb. 4. The Utes return to action Saturday, Feb. 5, to battle UVSC again at 12:30 p.m.
Scouting Report -
UVSC: The Wolverines begin their second year as an Independent Division I opponent. They enter the season with six returning starters but lost nine letterwinners from the 2004 squad that went 18-16. Senior Amanda Kendzior leads all returnees. She started in 33 of the 34 games she appeared in and hit a team-best .427 with 15 extra-base hits. Todd Fairbourne, who coached UVSC for six seasons at the junior college level, returns for a second stint as head coach. The two teams battled twice in 2004 with Utah winning 8-5 on April 6, and 8-0 on April 27.
Southern Utah: The Thunderbirds are the defending Mid-Continent regular season champions after going 38-18 overall and 19-9 in league action. But, they were picked to finish fourth in the league in the preseason coaches poll. SUU lost two-time Mid-Con Player of the Year Lacee Leprey but returns three all-conference honorees. Leading the way is Jentry Johnson having hit .277 with 39 RBI last season. Jodi Hermanek begins her first season at the helm of the Thunderbird program. Utah picked up a pair of wins in last season's meetings, downing the Thunderbirds 10-1 on Feb. 7 and 8-3 on April 9.
Quoting Head Coach Mona Stevens:
On Preseason Workouts: "We are looking forward to getting out there and playing a game. We never know from year to year the level that the team will perform at until it goes out there and digs its cleats into the dirt.
"Our focus coming into this season is on staying consistent -- emotionally and mentally. The leadership presence of Brianna Gourdin, Ivette Hernandez, Kate Nygaard and Bryanne Durrence brings competitiveness and determination to the field that will be a big influence on the team this season."
On the BYU/UVSC Tournament: "This weekend, we are trying to step up our awareness of the game. Last year, we felt we were very reactive and we want the team to be instantly aware of situations to make adjustments and better decisions.
"We also want our pitching staff to establish itself as something that needs to be reckoned with. We want to build its confidence through the roof this weekend."
Outlook: The Utes return seven starters from the 2004 squad that won the MWC Tournament title and a berth into the NCAA tournament. Utah went 23-33 overall and 8-12 in league play.
Despite two new faces on the left side, the Utes anticipate a solid season around the horn.
With the departure of tested veterans and all-West Region performers Glennis Donnelley and Melissa Stahnke from the left side, sophomore Devina Quintero, a 2004 all-MWC selection, and newcomer Sharee Fonoti stepped in to fill the voids after a solid showing last fall.
A trio of returnees highlight the outfield in Texie Criddle, Sarah Lyman and two time all-conference honoree Lynsey Wall. But, the outfield will be one of the deepest and most talented aspects of the Ute softball squad. Freshmen Meghan Crouse, Kelly Matthews and Diana Phillips add speed to the basepaths and are also expected to compete for time in the lineup.
A pitching staff that started to roll at the end of last season returns as another strength in 2005.
The Ute hurlers will feature the MWC tournament MVP Brianna Gourdin. She led the Utes last season with 18 wins and a 2.81 earned-run average. Sophomore Samantha Schroeder adds experience to the staff and JUCO transfer Lindsie Nielsen, fresh off of an All-American season at Salt Lake Community College, is a fiery competitor in the circle.
At catcher, veterans Bryanne Durrence and Kate Nygaard will be tapped to call the game for the Utes. Durrence handled the bulk of the duties in 2004 while Nygaard adds power to the lineup and will likely play the designated hitter role when she's not behind the plate.
Keep The Hits Coming: Two Utes are looking to capitalize on a strong finish from last season. Ivette Hernandez opens this season with a modest six-game hitting streak. The junior infielder wrapped up her sophomore year going 1-for-3 in each of the last six outings. She also completed her freshman year with a four-game streak and had another four-gamer from April 6-10 of last season.
Kate Nygaard also capped off the 2004 campaign with a mini-hitting streak of her own. She had a hit in each of the last three games.
Tough Road to Hoe: The Utes will play 10 teams mentioned in the USA Today/NFCA preseason coaches poll. Among those teams are the NCAA defending champions and No. 2-ranked UCLA, No. 6 Stanford and No. 10 Florida State. Ten opponents on the docket this season also went to the NCAA tournament in 2004. That includes UCLA, Stanford and Florida State, each of which went to the College World Series.
Utes Picked Fourth: The Ute softball squad was picked to finish fourth in the MWC preseason coaches poll. Utah was fourth with 12 points. San Diego State was picked to finish first in the conference with 22 points and two first-place nods. Defending MWC regular season champ Colorado State and BYU were tied for second with 20 points and two first-place votes each. New Mexico and UNLV round the rest of the poll by being picked to finish in a tie for fifth with eight points each.
At the Helm: Mona Stevens is in her ninth season as Utah's softball head coach. Stevens is 260-210-1 all-time and owns a 100-72-1 record in conference play. She has led her squad to four NCAA regional appearances and has coached three All-Americans. Stevens has also coached 12 all-West Region players including Glennis Donnelly and Melissa Stahnke in 2004. Her teams have won one MWC regular season title and three MWC tournament titles, including the 2004 tournament championship.
On Deck: The Utes return to the diamond to play a non-conference tilt at Southern Utah on Feb. 10. Then, Utah ventures to the Louisville Desert Classic in Las Vegas, Nev., on Feb. 11-13. There, the Utes will play Hawaii, Oregon State, Texas Tech, Wichita State and Cal-Riverside. Utah's preseason tournament run continues on Feb. 17-20 when it plays in the Campbell/Cartier Tournament hosted by San Diego State University.