May 29, 2002
The University of Notre Dame softball team (44-17) ended up 19th in the final USA Today/NFCA Top 25 released on May 29, 2002. The Irish captured the 2002 BIG EAST Championship title and the league’s regular-season crown, compiling a 18-2 conference record.
Among the team records Notre Dame set in head coach Deanna Gumpf’s first season were runs scored (318), home runs (54) and fielding percentage (.971). The Irish hit .299 as a team, rallying back from an 8-12 pre-BIG EAST schedule start to win 36 of their next 41 games.
The Notre Dame team posted all these accomplishments while facing the toughest schedule in school history. In all, 14 teams on the 2002 schedule were ranked when they faced the Irish – breaking the school mark of 13 ranked teams faced in 1998 and 2001. Notre Dame ended up with a 5-9 record in its contests against the 14 ranked teams, knocking off #4 Nebraska in Lincoln, #18 DePaul, #15 Oregon State, #22 Iowa and #25 South Florida.
Notre Dame entered the NCAA Region VII Tournament in Iowa City, Iowa, for the second year in a row on May 15. The Irish knocked off the host team, #22 Iowa, 3-2 in the first game of the tournament. After suffering a 2-0 loss to #15 Oregon State the next day, Notre Dame rebounded to knock off the Beavers 2-0 and advance into championship competition. Seventh-ranked Nebraska eventually eliminated the Irish 5-3 in the Region VII championship game.
Individual accolades garnered by the Irish this year included third-team All-America honors and the BIG EAST Player of the Year award for senior catcher Jarrah Myers (.370, 13 home runs, 49 RBI, 14 stolen bases, Notre Dame career leader in home runs, RBI and walks), third-team All-America and the BIG EAST Championship Most Outstanding Player award for junior third base Andrea Loman (.377, 12 home runs, 43 RBI, 16 stolen bases), and first-team all-BIG EAST honors for senior Jenny Kriech, junior Andria Bledsoe, junior Lisa Mattison, freshman Megan Ciolli and freshman Steffany Stenglein.
Notre Dame will return the core of its 2002 team next season, as starting infielders Loman, Mattison, Bledsoe and Alexis Madrid return. Freshmen Ciolli and Liz Hartmann (who both started over 56 games this season) will be back in the outfield. In the pitching circle, Stenglein will return after an impressive rookie campaign and BIG EAST all-rookie team selection Carrie Wisen will be in the mix as well. Gumpf also will welcome a highly touted recruiting class, with five incoming freshmen on the 2003 team roster.