Jan. 30, 2003
The University of Notre Dame softball team, which returns six starting positional players and two starting pitchers from the 2002 squad, has been ranked 17th in the USA Today/National Fastpitch Coaches Association preseason top 25. It is the second-straight year the Irish have been ranked in the preseason top 20, as Notre Dame debuted at 14th last year and finished the year ranked 19th in the nation.
Notre Dame head coach Deanna Gumpf enters her second season with an experienced and talented team, led by a strong veteran infield. Senior captains Andrea Loman (third base), Andria Bledsoe (shortstop) and Alexis Madrid (second base) have started all three years with the Irish and have played key roles in the 98-24 (.803) record Notre Dame has produced over the last two seasons.
Loman was a third-team NFCA/Louisville Slugger All-American last year after hitting .377 with 12 home runs and 43 RBI. She joined teammates Bledsoe, Steffany Stenglein (RHP, So.), Lisa Mattison (1B, Sr.) and Megan Ciolli (OF, So.) as a first-team all-BIG EAST selection a year ago.
In keeping with tradition, Notre Dame will face a tough schedule this season according to the preseason top 25. The Irish are scheduled to face #3 California, #4 Nebraska (at least three times), #11 DePaul (at least three times), #15 Fresno State, #22 Alabama and Louisiana-Lafayette and Virginia Tech - both of whom also received votes in the poll.
USA Today/NFCA Divison I Top 25
9. Florida State
10. Cal State Fullerton
13. Arizona State
15. Fresno State
16. Ohio State
t-17. NOTRE DAME
19. Georgia Tech
20. South Carolina
23. Oregon State
24. Texas A&M
Others receiving votes: Florida Atlantic, Baylor, Iowa, Louisiana-Lafayette and Virginia Tech. 11 other teams were listed on two or fewer ballots and are not included in the poll.
bold indicates 2003 opponents.