Feb. 8, 2017
by Tony Jones
#22 Notre Dame at the Beach Kickoff/Stacy Winsberg Memorial Tournaments
Feb. 10-12, 2017
LBSU Softball Complex/Easton Stadium
Long Beach, California/Los Angeles, California
#22 Notre Dame Fighting Irish
(43-13 in 2016)
Weber State Wildcats
(37-19 in 2016)
Long Beach State 49ers
(33-22 in 2016)
South Dakota Coyotes
(15-38 in 2016)
San Diego State Aztecs
(30-22 in 2016)
#8 UCLA Bruins
(40-16-1 in 2016)
Notre Dame Weekend Schedule
Friday, Feb. 10 (LBSU Softball Complex)
No. 22 Notre Dame vs. Weber State – Noon (ET)
No. 22 Notre Dame at Long Beach State – 2:30 p.m. (ET)
Saturday, Feb. 11 (LBSU Softball Complex)
No. 22 Notre Dame vs. South Dakota – Noon (ET)
No. 22 Notre Dame vs. San Diego State – 2:30 p.m. (ET)
Sunday, Feb. 12 (UCLA’s Easton Stadium)
No. 22 Notre Dame at No. 8 UCLA – Noon (ET)
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The University of Notre Dame softball team officially begins its 2017 schedule this weekend, traveling to the state of California for two separate tournament stops. The Irish begin the new campaign with four games at the Beach Kickoff Tournament on Feb. 10-11 at Long Beach State, and close the West Coast road swing as part of the Stacy Winsberg Memorial Tournament on Feb. 12 at No. 8 UCLA.
Irish Slap Hits
– Notre Dame enters 2017 with a 1,146-494-3 (.698) all-time record, 30 combined conference championships (19 regular season, 11 tournament) and 21 NCAA Regional appearances, which has included 18 straight berths into the NCAA Championship tournament.
– Notre Dame secured the 18th 40-win season in program history by posting a 43-13 (.768) mark in 2016. The Irish have surpassed the 40-win plateau in each of the past eight seasons, and in 11 of the last 13 campaigns overall.
– Notre Dame won 19 straight games from Feb. 20 to March 25 of 2016, outscoring opponents by a combined 158-41 in those victories. The streak marked the second straight season that the Irish won 19 or more consecutive games during a given stretch (24 straight wins from March 15-April 22 in 2015).
– Notre Dame was slotted 22nd in the preseason USA Today/NFCA Division I Preseason Coaches Poll that was released on Jan. 31. It marked just the second time Notre Dame has opened three consecutive seasons in the top 25 coaches poll in program history (2001-03) after checking in 24th in 2016 and 22nd in 2015. The Irish were also 22nd in the preseason ESPN.com/USA Softball Top 25.
– Senior captain Karley Wester was named to the Top 50 Watch List for the 2017 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year award on Feb. 1. Wester earned a spot on the watch list for the third straight preseason, and was a top 10 finalist in 2016 and a top 26 finalist in 2015 for the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year award. Wester was invited to January’s USA Softball National Team Selection Camp in Clearwater, Florida, and enters the season as the active NCAA leader with 256 career hits.
– Irish softball is one of only two Notre Dame varsity athletic programs to have never posted a losing record. The softball team clinched its 28th straight season with a .500 record or better with a 43-13 final mark to close the 2016 campaign. Notre Dame’s three-time national champion women’s soccer program has logged 29 straight winning seasons since its inception at the varsity level in the fall of 1988.
Veterans Return To ND Fold In ’17
Notre Dame returns 13 Monogram winners from its 2016 squad that made an 18th consecutive appearance (20th all-time) in the NCAA Championship, traveling to the Ann Arbor (Michigan) site for the 11th time in program history.
The Irish capped 2016 at 43-13 (.768), establishing a single-season program record for RBI with 346.
Notre Dame, which tied its 2014 and 2015 team total of seven NFCA Mid-Atlantic all-region honorees in 2016, has sophomore Caitlyn Brooks, sophomore Melissa Rochford, sophomore Ali Wester and senior captain Karley Wester returning as first team performers, junior Morgan Reed back as a second team representative, and junior Bailey Bigler on the roster as a third team selection from last season. Senior Rachel Nasland (16-5 in 2016) and junior Katie Beriont (6-2 in 2016) also return to comprise the core of a talented four-pitcher rotation entering the 2017 season.
Irish Third In ACC Preseason Poll
Notre Dame received 84 voting points to finish third in the 2017 ACC Softball Preseason Coaches Poll that was released on Monday. The Irish have been in the top three in the preseason rankings in every season since joining the ACC, placing second (88 points, one first place vote) in 2015 and (92 points, two first place votes) in 2016, and third (80 points) in 2014.
Notre Dame finished behind defending three-time ACC champion Florida State (100 points, 10 first place votes) and Louisville (86 points, one first place vote). The conference’s 11 head coaches each cast one ballot for the predicted order of finish, and are not able to vote for their own teams.
North Carolina was fourth with 67 points, while Virginia Tech was fifth with 58 points.
Third Straight Preseason Top 25 Nod
After spending over 120 days in major top 25 polls during the 2016 season, many organizations across the country have Notre Dame nationally-ranked to open the 2017 season.
The Irish were ranked 22nd in both the USA Today/NFCA Division I Preseason Coaches and the ESPN.com/USA Softball Collegiate Top 25 polls, the two most recognizable softball polls in the nation. Notre Dame was also ranked 18th by FloSoftball, 19th by College Sports Madness and 21st by D1SoftballNews.com in other notable preseason polls.
Elite Slate Awaits The Irish
Over the course of the 2017 regular season schedule, Notre Dame will face 15 teams that reached NCAA Regionals last season. Five of the eight 2016 Women’s College World Series qualifiers, including defending NCAA champion Oklahoma, appear on the Irish opponents list.
Notre Dame has fared well against foes ranked among the national top 25 since 2013, winning 17 games against ranked opponents during that span. The Irish have added eight wins against the national top 10 alone since 2013, the second-most top 10 victories for the Irish ever in a four-year span (nine, 1999-2002). Notre Dame is set to collide with seven foes in 2017 that are ranked among the top 20 teams nationally in the primary preseason polls.
Highlights of the upcoming Notre Dame home schedule include ACC series with Virginia Tech (March 24-26), North Carolina (April 7-9), Arkansas (April 29-30) and Boston College (May 5-7).
Wester In USA Softball POY Top 50
For the third straight year, University of Notre Dame senior captain and two-time National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) All-American Karley Wester has been added to the “Watch List” for the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year award, as unveiled by USA Softball on Wednesday.
Notre Dame has now seen at least one player selected to the top 50 preseason watch list for the national player of the year award in each of the last six seasons. NFCA All-Americans Dani Miller (2012) and Amy Buntin (2013), three-time NFCA All-American Emilee Koerner (2014 and 2015), and four-time NFCA all-region choice Laura Winter (2014) joined Wester (2015 and 2016) in previously earning the distinction.
Two different Notre Dame players have been tabbed as finalists for USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year since 2013. As a sophomore that season Koerner became Notre Dame’s first top 10 selection for the award in program history, while Wester finished as a top 26 player of the year finalist in 2015 and a top 10 award finalist in 2016.
Wester batted a program best .443 with 256 hits, 93 RBI, 98 stolen bases (Notre Dame record) and 183 runs scored in her first 167 games (166 starts). The active hits leader in the NCAA, Wester paced the ACC in batting average in each of her first three seasons. She batted .446 while adding Notre Dame single-season records for hits (91), runs scored (68) and stolen bases (46) in 2016.
Irish Against The ACC
Notre Dame officially opens its fourth season in the ACC at Georgia Tech on March 11. Taking into account all prior games, including those before joining the league, the Irish are a combined 161-55 (.745) against the current ACC membership.
Irish Against The Opposition
Notre Dame is 12-13 all-time against its opening weekend opponents, and are set to meet Weber State and South Dakota for the first time.
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.
Tony Jones, athletics communications assistant director at the University of Notre Dame, has been part of the Fighting Irish athletics communications team since 2012 and coordinates all media efforts for the Notre Dame softball and men’s soccer programs. A native of Jamestown, New York, Jones is a 2011 graduate of St. Bonaventure University, and prior to arriving at Notre Dame held positions at the University of Louisiana Monroe and with the National Football League’s Buffalo Bills.