Cait  Brooks (16)

#RV Irish Begin New Year In Mexico

#RV Notre Dame at Puerto Vallarta College Challenge
Feb. 7-9, 2019
Nancy Almaraz Stadium
Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, Mexico

No. RV Notre Dame Fighting Irish
(34-23 in 2018)

Duke Blue Devils
(29-27 in 2018)

No. RV Liberty Flames
(49-14 in 2018)

No. 9 South Carolina Gamecocks
(49-17 in 2018)

No. 3/2 Washington Huskies
(52-10 in 2018)

Notre Dame Puerto Vallarta College Challenge Schedule

Thursday, Feb. 7
No. RV Notre Dame vs. Duke – 9:30 p.m. (ET)/FloSoftball

Friday, Feb. 8
No. RV Notre Dame vs. No. RV Liberty – 1:30 p.m. (ET)/FloSoftball

Saturday, Feb. 9
No. RV Notre Dame vs. No. 9 South Carolina – 11 a.m. (ET)/FloSoftball
No. RV Notre Dame vs. No. 3/2 Washington – 7 p.m. (ET)/FloSoftball

NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The University of Notre Dame softball team officially kicks off the 2019 season this week, as the Irish are set to play four games at the Puerto Vallarta College Challenge at Nancy Almaraz Stadium in Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, Mexico.

No. RV Notre Dame will play a single game on Thursday against Duke at 9:30 p.m. (ET), followed by a lone Friday showdown with No. RV Liberty at 1:30 p.m. (ET). The Irish close the event with a pair of games with No. 9 South Carolina at 11 a.m. (ET) and No. 3/2 Washington at 7 p.m. (ET) on Saturday.

Irish Kick Start 2019 In Mexico

Notre Dame received 102 voting points to finish behind only defending ACC and NCAA champion Florida State (121 points, 11 first-place votes) in the predicted conference order of finish that was released on Jan. 29. It marked the third time (2015 and 2016) the Irish have been slated second in the preseason ACC poll since joining the conference in 2014, with the 102 points the most Notre Dame has garnered in the poll. In fact, the Irish have never been slotted lower than third in any of their first six ACC preseasons.

Notre Dame returns all but one starter in 2019 after competing in the NCAA Championship for the 20th straight season (23rd overall in program history), highlighted by the Irish winning a pair of games to eliminate Midwest rival Michigan from the NCAA Lexington Regional last May. Notre Dame finished 2018 with six ranked wins for the year, including three victories over No. 20/19/17 Michigan, a two-game sweep of No. 14 Minnesota and a 3-1 win against No. 8/6 Florida State in the regular-season finale.

Sweet On The First Preseason All-ACC Softball Team

Sophomore outfielder Abby Sweet was one of 15 league players voted to the inaugural Preseason All-ACC Softball Team by conference head coaches on Jan. 29.

Sweet enjoyed a sensational freshman outing for Notre Dame in 2018, starting all 57 games for the Irish in center field on her way to being named to the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) Mid-Atlantic All-Region Third Team. She ranked second on the Irish roster with a .333 batting average and 57 hits, holding the final top spots with 13 doubles, 15 stolen bases, a .420 on-base percentage and 38 runs scored. Sweet also established a single-season Notre Dame record after being hit by a pitch 22 times over the course of the year.

A native of Newhall, California, Sweet captured an All-ACC Second Team and ACC All-Freshman Team sweep following a dynamic performance during the conference slate last season. She batted .294 with a team-high six doubles and 17 runs, chipping in 14 RBI and six stolen bases in 23 ACC starts. She added a .419 on-base percentage in league play on the strength of being hit by pitch on 13 different occasions.

Ranked Opponents On Horizon

Notre Dame, which received votes in the first edition of both the USA Today/NFCA Division I Top 25 and Softball Collegiate Top 25 polls, will see a number of ranked foes on the schedule as 2019 progresses. The Irish will face No. 1/3 Florida State (March 15-17), No. 3/2 Washington (Feb. 9), No. 4 Oklahoma (Feb. 14), No. 8 Tennessee (Feb. 15), No. 9 South Carolina (Feb. 9), No. 18/19 Baylor (March 1 and March 3), No. 21/23 Minnesota (Feb. 16), No. 22/21 Oklahoma State (Feb. 15) and No. RV/24 Ohio State (Feb. 17).

Puerto Vallarta College Challenge History

Notre Dame will make its first appearance in the Puerto Vallarta College Challenge in the fourth season of the event in Mexico. Some 20 teams have previously taken part in the Puerto Vallarta College Challenge since 2015, with Notre Dame, Duke and South Carolina joining the tournament field as new entries this week.

ND Versus Puerto Vallarta Opposition

Notre Dame is a combined 8-15 against the four teams that it will face to open the 2019 season at the Puerto Vallarta College Challenge. The Irish are a perfect 3-0 against Liberty in an all-time series that dates back to 1999. Notre Dame beat the Flames the most recent time the teams faced off, a 10-2 win in five innings for the Irish in 2013. This weekend marks the first time the teams will meet outside of either the Carolinas or Tennessee.

Notre Dame has not squared off with South Carolina since the 2001 season, in which the Irish captured a 1-0 win over the No. 18 Gamecocks at the Holiday Inn Invitational in Tampa, Florida. In fact, all three Notre Dame wins over South Carolina have been against a top-25 side (4-1 win over No. 9 USC in 1992, 5-2 win over No. 11 USC in 1998).