Feb. 1, 2017
by Tony Jones
2017 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year Top 50 "Watch List"
NOTRE DAME, Ind. -- 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.
Entering its 16th season, the 2017 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year award, presented by the National Governing Body for Softball in the United States, recognizes outstanding athletic achievement by Division I female collegiate softball players across the country.
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.
A native of Huntington Beach, California, Wester returns to the Notre Dame captaincy role in 2017 after serving as a junior co-captain last season. She has 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 Atlantic Coast Conference (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.
Just the eighth multi-time NFCA All-America selection in Notre Dame history (second team, 2014; third team, 2016), Wester finished as a top three finalist for the inaugural NFCA Division I National Freshman of the Year award and was recognized as that season's ACC Softball Freshman of the Year in 2014. She has also been named to the NFCA Mid-Atlantic all-region first team three straight years, and has found a place on all-ACC teams during each of her first three Notre Dame seasons.
The preseason USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year "Watch List" includes 26 seniors, 18 juniors and 6 sophomores, with freshmen ineligible for consideration. Freshmen can be considered for the USA Collegiate Player of the Year award once they officially compete at the collegiate level. Student-athletes from 37 NCAA Division I universities and 13 athletic conferences comprise the preseason watch list.
The Top 25 finalists for the 2017 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year award will be announced on April 12.
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.