QU Softball Opens 2014 Campaign With Five Games Down in University of North Florida Tournament This Weekend

University of North Florida Tournament
UNF Softball Complex – Jacksonville, Fla.

Quinnipiac University Bobcats (0-0, 0-0 MAAC)
Southern Illinois (2-2, 0-0 Missouri Valley)
Savannah State Lady Tigers (3-1, 0-0 MEAC)

Troy Trojans (2-2-1, 0-0 Sun Belt)
North Florida Ospreys (4-1, 0-0 Atlantic Sun)

University of North Florida Tournament
Friday, February 14, 2014

Southern Ill. vs. Quinnipiac – 10:00 a.m.
Savannah St. vs. Quinnipiac – 2:30 p.m.
Saturday, February 15, 2014
Troy vs. Quinnipiac – 4:45 p.m.
Quinnipiac at North Florida – 7:00 p.m.
Sunday, February 16, 2014
Quinnipiac vs. Savannah St. – 12:15 p.m.

And So It Begins
The Quinnipiac softball team will kickstart a new season and new era for the Bobcats as this will be the first season of newly hired interim head coach Jill Karwoski. The Bobcats are coming off a 17-35 season with a 9-11 record in their final year as a member of the Northeast Conference. They were just picked to finish seventh in the MAAC preseason poll released earlier this week as they return a strong roster with their three top hitters returning as well as their entire pitching staff form a year ago. They open the 2014 season with a trip down to Jacksonville, Fla. where they will take part in a five-game tournament featuring the likes of Southern Ill., Savannah State, Troy and host North Florida.

All-Time Against the Competition
This weekend will feature the first all-time meeting between the Bobcats and three of the four teams in the tournament field as Quinnipiac and Southern Ill., Savannah State and Troy have never played. The Bobcats did take on North Florida once before, coming away with a 2-0 victory back on March 18, 2011 down in the USF Invitational in Clearwater, Fla. 

Scouting the Salukis
Southern Illinois comes into the weekend with a 2-2 record after splitting a weekend series at the Century Link Classic. The Salukis defeated Stephen F. Austin and Texas A&M Corpus-Christi in the first day of competition followed by losses to Ball State and Texas State in day two of play. They are coming off a 25-27 season in 2013 with a 12-10 record in the Missouri Valley conference. Their season ended in the MVC Tournament with a 6-4 loss to Northern Iowa but the Salukis do possess a strong roster that was just picked to finish fourth in the MVC Preseason Coaches Poll. Senior second baseman Jayna Spivey and junior designated player Meredith Wilson were named to the Preseason All-MVC team and will highlight a group that includes 14 returning letterwinners from a year ago.

Scouting the Lady Tigers
The Savannah State softball team enters their third year of competition in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) after two highly successful years in the conference. The Lady Tigers are already off to a great start in 2014 as they enter the weekend with a record of 3-1. They defeated Morgan State, Thomas University (Ga.) and the University of South Carolina Beaufort in their home-opening tournament last weekend. SSU fell one game short of the title game in 2013's MEAC Championship Tournament, after garnering big wins over Norfolk State and perennial MEAC power Bethune-Cookman. The Lady Tigers concluded the season with a 26-24 record. It was the second consecutive winning season for the program. In his 7th season as head coach, Jose Gonzalez is the winningest coach in SSU softball history with a 107-159 overall record. He was named the 2012 MEAC Coach of the Year.

Scouting the Trojans
Troy has vaulted themselves into the discussion of one of the highest ascending teams in the nation as they recently finished a massive $3 million upgrade to their softball facility which was first opened earlier this season in a 5-5 tie against Auburn. Just last weekend, Troy welcomed the No. 6 nationally-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide to their home field and ultimately fell, 7-1, to a team filled with a host of All-Americans. Troy comes into the weekend with a 2-2-1 overall record and will take on the Bobcats on Saturday. The Trojans return several top athletes from a season ago, including Preseason All-Sun Belt selection Kacie McAllister. McAllister hit .313 with 31 runs scored, 46 hits and nine doubles in 2013 while also leading the SBC in 13 sacrifice bunts. She started every game for the Trojans and led the team with a .985 fielding percentage. In all, Troy returns five starters in the field overall and three starters in the circle, and brings in a talented group of 12 newcomers.

Scouting the Ospreys
North Florida is the second-highest ranked team to end 2013 that the Bobcats will play all season as the Ospreys finishes last season with a 42-15 record and Atlantic Sun Regular Season Championship. Picked to finish fourth in the A-Sun Preseason Poll, the Ospreys have themselves quite a weapon in junior pitcher Kaylie Wallace who was just named A-Sun Preseason Pitcher of the Year. Wallace was also the only Osprey to land a spot on the Preseason All-Conference Team. Last season, Wallace was selected the A-Sun's Pitcher of the Year after leading the conference in ERA (1.63), shutouts (8) and wins (24) and was one of two pitchers with a conference-best 31 starts. At the end of the season, Wallace ranked nationally in shutouts (23rd), ERA (24th), victories (31st) and walks allowed per seven innings (82nd). UNF returns most of its team from a year ago that captured the program's first-ever Atlantic Sun Regular Season Championship. Among those returning are 2013 A-Sun Pitcher of the Year Wallace and Second-Team All-Conference selections Danica Mandarano and Kelly Wilson.

Preseason Selection
The Bobcats were picked to finish seventh in the MAAC preseason poll which was announced earlier this week as Quinnipiac garnered 58 points among the vote of the league's head coaches. Defending MAAC Tournament Champion Marist was voted as the preseason favorite in the league followed by the reigning MAAC Regular Season Champion Fairfield and 2013 NEC Tournament participant Monmouth.

Early Honors
A host of Bobcats including juniors Jordan Paolucci and Nikki Barba as well as sophomore Courtney Solt were all named to the College Sports Madness Preseason All-MAAC Team announced earlier this month. Paolucci and Solt each earned a First Team distinction while Barba was named to the Second Team. Paolucci had a banner year, establishing a new single-season program record with 44 RBI while also leading the NEC in home runs (12) and finishing third on the team with a .322 batting average. Solt broke the single-season hits record at Quinnipiac with 66 base knocks in 2013 to go along with a team-leading .375 batting average, 37 runs, nine doubles and NEC-high five triples. Barba's numbers improved dramatically from her freshman season as she raked .331 throughout 2013 with a team-high .421 on-base percentage, 31 runs, 13 doubles, four home runs and 23 RBI.

Last Season Recap
The Bobcats finished the 2014 season with a record of 17-35 and finished their final season as a member of the Northeast Conference in seventh place overall with a mark of 9-11 in NEC play. Quinnipiac failed to reach the postseason for the first time since the 2009 season, breaking up a string of three straight trips to the playoffs for the Bobcats.

In Steps Jill
Quinnipiac University Director of Athletics and Recreation Jack McDonald announced the hiring of Jill Karwoski as the interim head coach on Aug. 26, 2013. Karwoski comes to Quinnipiac from Providence College where she served as the assistant coach in 2012-13. Prior to joining Quinnipiac, Karwoski was the head coach at Merrimack College for the 2011-12 season. Before Merrimack, Karwoski spent four years as the associate head coach and recruiting coordinator at Boston College, a position she held from 2007 through 2011. She also has head coaching experience at Morehead State University where she manned the helm from 2004 through 2007.

You Will be Missed
The Bobcats graduated a core of four seniors last season that were all significant contributors not only in 2013 but throughout their four years at Quinnipiac. The Bobcats said goodbye to one of their best shortstops in program history, Alex Alba. She graduated with the most career doubles (45) of any player ever at Quinnipiac as well as the eighth-most homers (13) and fifth-most RBI (92). She also finished just five hits shy of becoming just the second player in Quinnipiac history to reach the 200 career hit club as she finished her four years with 195 base knocks. Also among the graduates was outfielder Lauren Salgado, the Bobcats' center fielder the last three seasons, who finished third all-time with 47 career stolen bases and 10th all-time in career hits (141). Two other major departures include third baseman Bridget Figmic (.243 batting average, 21 runs, 19 RBI, 19 walks, .962 fielding percentage) and first baseman Kourtney Kesses (.220 batting average, 23 runs, three home runs, 12 RBI, team-high 20 walks, .959 fielding percentage). Quinnipiac will need to fill three big departures across their infield and one in the outfield if they hope to compete in the 2014 season.

Back With Vengeance
Coming off a 2011 NEC Rookie of the Year and All-NEC First Year season, catcher Jordan Paolucci missed most of 2012 due to injury. Paolucci ended up redshirting in 2012 and returned fully healthy in 2013 as the starting catcher wherein she finished with another stellar season as the team's main backstop. As a redshirt sophomore in 2013, Paolucci led the team with a stellar all-around campaign including a single-season program record 44 RBI, NEC-high 12 home runs, .322 batting average, 22 runs, five doubles, .611 slugging percentage, .401 on-base percentage and three stolen bases. She led the team in every slugging category in addition to her holding the top spot in the NEC in home runs (12) and RBI (44). Paolucci's successful comeback season garnered recognition on the 2013 NFCA Division I All-Region Second Team honors in the Northeast region. She also pulled in NEC First Team and College Sports Madness All-NEC First Team honors for her impressive season.

Home Run Frenzy
Paolucci's incredible 2013 campaign featured a couple more statistical highlights as she recorded a hit in over 90 percent of the team's games which also included a home run in nearly 23 percent of the games as well. She also became the first Bobcat in program history to record multiple seasons with at least 10 home runs including three grand slams in 2013 with her signature moment coming on April 20 when she crushed a walk off grand slam in the eighth inning to win it for the Bobcats.

Solt of a Good Player
The first season for outfielder Courtney Solt won't soon be forgotten as she broke a 17-year-old program record, finishing with 66 hits to break the single-season program mark established by Kerri McMahon back in the 1995 season. Solt finished her first season with the Bobcats with a .375 batting average, tied for the third-most triples in a single-season in Quinnipiac's history (five) and also finished with the eighth-most runs scored (37) in a single-season at Quinnipiac. Her defining season granted her College Sports Madness All-NEC Second Team accolades for her efforts.

Tied at the Top
Solt also became just the second Bobcat ever to win three NEC Rookie of the Week titles in 2013 as she joined Krista Seeman who accomplished the feat back in 2007. Her success from 2013 has carried over into the 2014 preseason accolades as she was the only Bobcat to garner a MAAC preseason All-Conference selection.

Nikki Breaks Out
Another Bobcat who broke out in 2013 was their then-sophomore second baseman Nikki Barba who took home her first career All-NEC distinction with Second Team honors following strong season. She went from sixth on the team in batting average in 2012 all the way up to second with a .331 mark at year's end. Her average was good enough for a Top-10 spot in the NEC in 2013. Barba improved across the board in terms of hits (49), runs (31), RBI (23), home runs (4), doubles (13), walks (20), stolen bases (7), on-base percentage (.421) and slugging percentage (.500). She ranked in the top-three on the team in all respective categories and did so while starting all 52 games at the second base position for the Bobcats.

Hot Streak
Barba strung together an 11-game hitting streak early in the 2013 season which finished as the longest streak for any Bobcat hitter throughout last season. She hit a combined .444 (16-for-36) throughout the hitting streak with four doubles, nine runs and five RBI.

Position Movement
Expect to see plenty of Bobcats playing in new positions in 2014 as Quinnipiac will need to replace four starters in critical positions (centerfield, shortstop, third base, first base). Only one player on the team, Sydney Robey, is not listed as a utility player entering the 2014 campaign.

On the Mound
The Bobcats were hard pressed to replace their best pitcher in program history last season but they are lucky enough to have all four of the five pitchers who saw action on the mound return for another season at Quinnipiac. Junior Hannah Lindsley had a breakout season as she finished 2013 with the best stats in every pitching category for the entire Quinnipiac pitching contingent. She tallied 7 wins with a 4.10 ERA, 9 complete games, 121.1 innings, 64 strikeouts and two saves. Linsley will be counted on to step in as the team's ace after she put together a solid 7-12 record after pitching in just one game during her freshman season. Other pitchers who will be counted on include senior Katie Alfiere (1-8, 6.19 ERA) who will be looking to bounce back from a difficult 2013 campaign while sophomore Sydney Robey (6-8, 5.27 ERA) showcased some dynamic ability from the mound in spurts last season and will be looking to round herself into a consistent contributor for the Bobcats in 2014.

A Slew of Newcomers
The 2014 Bobcats will include a significant amount of newcomers as freshmen Keilani Finley will join fellow classmates Taylor Schussler and Kathryn Vitale in their first seasons with the team. Finley hails from Alameda, Calif. and will look to help fill the hole vacated by Lauren Salgado in the Bobcats' outfield while Schussler, who also played for Quinnipiac women's rugby team, will provide some much needed depth at the infield position, as well as Vitale who figures to see time in the outfield. Also joining Quinnipiac for their first season with the team is sophomore walk-on outfielder Katie Strong who hails from South Windsor, Conn.

Big MAAC Moves
Quinnipiac softball will be competing in their first season as a member of the MAAC in 2014 after being a member of the Northeast Conference for 12 seasons. The Bobcats will be facing a brand new slate of competition as they played three different MAAC foes last season a total of six times. Quinnipiac finished with a 3-3 record in those six games against their new conference foes as they split two games each coming against Monmouth, Fairfield and Manhattan. Included in their six-game stretch was an impressive 6-4 victory over MAAC Regular Season Champs Fairfield on the road as well as a convincing 8-1 victory over NEC Tournament participant Monmouth.

Contact: Maxx McNall; maxx.mcnall@quinnipiac.edu