UCF Softball Opens 2011 Season at UCLA Tournament

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Feb. 10, 2011

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By Sarah Tarasewicz

LOS ANGELES, Calif. (UCFAthletics.com) - The quest for a return trip to the Conference USA Championship Game and its fourth NCAA Tournament appearance starts this weekend for the UCF softball team, as head coach Renee Luers-Gillispie's squad opens the 2011 season at the UCLA Stacy Winsberg Memorial Tournament in Los Angeles, Calif.

The Knights begin play Friday with a 1:30 p.m. ET contest vs. Utah State, before playing a doubleheader Saturday vs. San Diego State and defending Women's College World Series Champion No. 1 UCLA at 5 p.m. ET and 10 p.m. ET, respectively. The tournament will come to a close for the Black and Gold bright and early Sunday morning when it faces off with North Dakota State at 12 p.m. ET.

Fans can follow all of UCF's contests on UCFAthletics.com via Gametracker, and can find all the information regarding the Stacy Winsberg Memorial Tournament by clicking here.

Gillispie is in her 10th season as UCF's head softball coach and enters the weekend only seven wins shy of her 600th career victory. The skipper holds a 593-437-3 all-time record, while guiding the Black and Gold to a 341-233-1 record in the program's nine-year existence.

The Knights are coming off a 2010 season in which they made their third appearance in the NCAA Tournament and their second showing in the C-USA Championship Game, where they posted a 36-27 overall record and placed third in regular-season league play with a 16-7 C-USA mark.

Gillispie returns eight letterwinners from her successful 2010 team, including All-C-USA First Team selections Tiffany Lane (Moreno Valley, Calif.) and Natalie Land (Mayo, Fla.), All-C-USA Second Team honoree Abby McClain (Waterloo, Iowa) and C-USA All-Freshman Team selection Marissa Menendez (Tampa, Fla.).

The Black and Gold also welcomes eight newcomers to the squad this season, including two NJCAA All-America selections in Kellie Todd (Ocala, Fla.) and Allie Jest (Stone Mountain, Ga.).

Three of the Knights will make the return trip to their home state of California, as Lane, Vanessa Perez (San Diego, Calif.) and freshman Haley Douglas (Pleasanton, Calif.) all hail from the Golden State.

In its opening contest, the Black and Gold will face a Utah State team that returns six starters from last year's team that tallied a 20-30 overall record and 5-14 in WAC action. The squad's top returner is senior Kelley Kaneshiro, who set a Utah State single-season record with 12 home runs in 2010. The Knights will face the Aggies for the first time in program history.

San Diego State enters the tournament coming off a 34-16 last season and a second-place finish in the Mountain West Conference with an11-4 clip. The Aztecs, who are receiving votes in both the ESPN.com/USA Softball and USA Today/NFCA preseason polls, lost only two senior starters from last year's squad that advanced to the NCAA tournament for the third-consecutive season. SDSU boasts four former all-conference selections on its 2011 roster, including Lindsey Marquez, Samantha Beasley, Justeen Maeva and Bailey Micetich. Saturday's meeting will be the first between the two squads.

The Bruins host the event after winning the 2010 Women's College World Series and ranking first in both the ESPN.com/USA Softball and USA Today/NFCA preseason polls. UCLA concluded the 2010 season with a 50-11 overall record and a 14-7 PAC-10 mark, and return 15 letterwinners, six starters and three pitchers from its national championship season, including NFCA First Team All-America selection GiOnna DiSalvatore. The Knights lost their only contest against the Bruins, 0-3, in 2007.

The Bison bring back eight letterwinners and four starters from last year's squad which went 33-25 and advanced to the NCAA Tournament after winning the Summit League Championship title. All-Summit League honoree Nicole Rivera returns for her senior season after hitting .370 last year with 17 RBI and 27 stolen bases. The series between North Dakota State and UCF is even at 1-1.

The Black and Gold will play 33 home games at the UCF Softball Complex, with season tickets for the 2011 season costing only $40. Tickets are available for purchase online at UCFAthletics.com and Ticketmaster.com, or by calling the UCF Athletics Ticket Office at (407) UCF-1000.

UCF hosts its 2011 home-opener Feb. 16 against North Florida at the UCF Softball Complex. UCF head football coach George O'Leary will throw out the ceremonial first pitch for the contest, while the first 100 fans through the gate will receive a signed 2011 UCF softball schedule poster.