Returning Home to California

Feb. 11, 2011

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By Carlyn Topkin

LOS ANGELES, Calif. (UCFAthletics.com) - UCF junior Vanessa Perez (San Diego, Calif.) always knew she wanted to go to college out-of-state. Senior Tiffany Lane (Moreno Valley, Calif.) was recruited at a Colorado tournament and freshman Haley Douglas (Pleasanton, Calif.) fell in love with UCF during her first campus visit.

Regardless of the cross-country paths these California natives took to get to UCF, they are all excited and eager to get back to the Golden State for the Stacy Winsberg Memorial Tournament this weekend, hosted by UCLA in Los Angeles, Calif. They all may have individual reasons to look forward to the trip, but something they could agree on... "Less humidity and eating good Mexican food!" said Lane.

The Knights will be playing four games over the course of the weekend, including one against the defending Women's College World Series Champions, UCLA.

"I think it's a really exciting opportunity to play the defending national champions," Perez said. "We were supposed to play UCLA last year and we didn't get a chance to, so I'm excited to play them this year and I think our team is going to show a lot when we get over there to play.

"I know people from UCLA and they are pretty good," added Lane. "I think they know me and my style, but at the same time I know them. I know their pitch selection and they know which pitches I like. So it works to both of our benefits."

Although there will be plenty of special moments, some in particular stand out, like playing against a team you watched growing up. Another opponent for UCF will be the Aztecs of San Diego State. Perez grew up in the San Diego area and attended many San Diego State games as a child.

"It's crazy now to be playing against them," Perez said. "It will be interesting to see everyone, because a lot of those girls are from my hometown area so it will be cool to see how we compare against them."

Entering her senior season, Lane sees the opportunity to play in California as incredibly rewarding.

"It means a lot, especially since it is my last year," Lane said. "I have all my friends and family coming down, aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews. My parents are probably even more excited than I am about the trip, because they get to see me. They come down to Orlando in March every year, but this is an extra special time since I will be in California and they will get to watch me with all my other family members."

On the other end of the spectrum, as a freshman Douglas is happy to simply be a part of the team and take in this experience.

"This will be a big moment for me, but it's coming so early in my career at UCF to say just how big it really is." Douglas said. "I have all my aunts and uncles coming to the game and they haven't been able to see me play since I was little. I'm probably most excited about that. They know that `Haley's good at softball' but they haven't had the opportunity to watch for themselves yet. So I'm really glad we are getting to be a part of this tournament."

Douglas is almost equally looking forward to her mom's home cooking, especially cookies.

"She knows to make enough that I can bring some home," Douglas stated.

The tournament is sure to be exciting and a great test of where the Knights are. Douglas' only advice to her teammates about the journey? "Sleep on the plane, because if not the time change will get you!"

Although California and Florida share some similarities, the girls breakdown their favorites when it comes to some defining attractions:

Disneyland vs. Disney World
Vanessa- I've yet to go to Disney World, but it sounds better since there are more parks!
Tiffany- Disney World
Haley- Disney World

Pacific Time Zone vs. Eastern Time Zone
Vanessa- Pacific Time Zone
Tiffany- Pacific Time Zone
Haley- Pacific Time Zone

Los Angeles Lakers vs. Orlando Magic
Vanessa- Lakers
Tiffany- Lakers
Haley- I don't really like basketball

Pacific Ocean vs. Gulf of Mexico
Vanessa- Pacific Ocean
Tiffany- Gulf of Mexico
Haley- Gulf of Mexico

California Blueberries (California's unofficial state fruit) vs. Florida Oranges
Vanessa- Oranges
Tiffany- Oranges
Haley- Blueberries

California weather vs. Florida weather
Vanessa- California
Tiffany- California
Haley- California

California Mexican food v. Florida Mexican food
Vanessa- No competition, Californian! My favorite food is Mexican
Tiffany- California. It's so close to the border, it's authentic
Haley- California

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.