May 10, 2015
NOTRE DAME, Ind.— With wins in 26 of its final 28 games, to go along with eight victories over fellow top 25 opponents during the regular season, the University of Notre Dame softball team was rewarded for facing one of the most challenging schedules in program history by earning a bid to host the regional round of the 2015 NCAA Championship on Sunday.
A record seven Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) teams received regional invitations, with Notre Dame joined by national No. 9 seed Florida State, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Virginia Tech, Louisville and Pittsburgh in the NCAA Championship draw.
No. 21 Notre Dame (40-13) received the national No. 16 seed at the top of the NCAA South Bend Regional, and will face Ball State on Friday at 5 p.m. (ET) at Melissa Cook Stadium. Also in the region are Kentucky and Northwestern, who will square off in Friday’s first game at 2 p.m. (ET).
Notre Dame has now qualified for the NCAA Championship 20 times in 27 seasons, reaching each of the past 17 national tournaments. Head coach Deanna Gumpf has directed the Irish to NCAA Regional appearances in each of her 14 seasons at the helm of the program.
The NCAA South Bend Regional will mark the second time that Notre Dame has served as a regional host during NCAA Championship play, as the Irish welcomed Louisville, Northwestern and Albany to Ivy Field in 2005. The other sites Notre Dame has traveled to for NCAA Regionals include Bloomington (1994), Ann Arbor (1995, 1996, 1999, 2000, 2003, 2004, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011), Iowa City (2001, 2002), Evanston (2006, 2007), Tucson (2012), Lexington (2013) and Los Angeles (2014).
Kentucky (29-24) enters NCAA Regional play after competing in last weekend’s Southeastern Conference (SEC) Tournament at Tiger Park in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The Wildcats are making their seventh consecutive NCAA Championship appearance, and previously played host to Notre Dame, Marshall and Virginia Tech during the 2013 NCAA Lexington Regional at John Cropp Stadium in Lexington, Kentucky.
Northwestern (28-21) returns to the NCAA Championship for the 15th time in its history, and the 10th different time under head coach Kate Drohan. The Wildcats have advanced out of their region on four separate occasions, reaching the Women’s College World Series two times in program history. Northwestern dropped a 3-2 decision to Notre Dame on April 15 in a previous trip to Melissa Cook Stadium this season.
Ball State (33-23), the Mid-American Conference (MAC) tournament champion, will make its third appearance in an NCAA Regional when the Cardinals travel to Melissa Cook Stadium. Ball State first appeared at the NCAA Ann Arbor Regional in 1998 before making a return trip to the national tournament in 2010, taking part in the NCAA Knoxville Regional.
Notre Dame posted a 17-6 conference record during its second official season as an ACC member, placing third in the regular season conference standings, and owned the second-longest winning streak of 2015 in Division I softball with 24 consecutive victories from March 15-April 22. Senior co-captain and two-time All-American Emilee Koerner became the first Irish player to earn ACC Player of the Year accolades after receiving the honor on May 7, and was joined on the all-ACC first team by fellow senior Katey Haus, junior All-American Micaela Arizmendi and sophomore All-American Karley Wester. Sophomore Rachel Nasland and freshman Morgan Reed each claimed second team all-ACC citations.
The eight wins against top 25 opponents for Notre Dame thus far in 2015 are the second-most during a single season in program history, trailing only the nine ranked victories achieved by the 2001 Irish team. Notre Dame led the NCAA with a remarkable 33-game winning streak that season that spanned from late March until the 2001 BIG EAST Conference Championship, establishing program records for most wins (54), fewest losses (7) and the highest national ranking (#8) during that campaign.
Further ticket and tournament information will be announced as it becomes available.
For the latest news and updates on all things Notre Dame softball, visit www.und.com/softball, follow the Irish @NDsoftball and @NDcoachGumpf on Twitter and at Instagram.com/notredamesoftball, and Like the team at Facebook.com/NDSoftball.