Feature: Despite A Flat Ending, 2007 Hit Many High Notes

May 24, 2007

By: Luke Andrews
Oregon Daily Emerald

May 24, 2007

Eugene, OR (CSTV U-WIRE) -- Jenn Salling describes the 2007 as a mixture of success and disappointment, a season which ended in heartbreak last Sunday with two losses to South Carolina in the Columbia, S.C. Regional of the NCAA Tournament.

The Ducks reached the championship round of the region after just two games and needed to win one of two against South Carolina to advance to Super Regionals, but came up short.

'That's what kills me - we know we were the better team, but it doesn't show in the books,' Salling, a redshirt freshman, said. 'It sucks that we lost...but we've had an incredible season. There were so many positives that came out of this season.'

Indeed there were.

The list of accomplishments includes an 18-game winning streak, spanning from Feb. 9 to March 2. The Ducks also put together a 15-game winning streak and started the season 36-3 before hitting a few rough patches in Pacific-10 Conference play.

Oregon finished the year at 7-14 in conference play and 44-19 overall, the most victories since the 1989 team won 54 games. The Ducks beat eight ranked opponents, including ending Oregon State's eight-game winning streak in the Civil War series by taking the season set 2-1 with the Beavers and also helping to bring the Civil War Cup back to Eugene with a 6-5 win in Corvallis on April 25.

Oregon also won 20 more games than they did last season and especially found its stride late in the season, winning three of the final four games much in part to the return of junior ace Alicia Cook after her illness limited the Ducks to only sophomore Melissa Rice. The Ducks reached the postseason for the fourth time in five years under coach Kathy Arendsen.

'We made some amazing strides this year as a team and the program in general,' sophomore centerfielder Sari-Jane Jenkins said. 'We're beginning to build the standards that other programs have, such as Arizona.'

There were also individual accolades, with a record seven Ducks named to All-Pac-10 teams, led by Salling, the Pac-10's Newcomer of the Year and one of 11 finalists for USA Softball National Collegiate Player of the Year Award, though she did not make the cut for the final three.

Salling finished the regular season with a .481 batting average and a .873 slugging percentage, both Oregon single-season records. She also broke Oregon's RBI (73), total bases (138) and walks (46) records.

Senior Ann Marie Topps broke Oregon's single-season home run record with 19 and fellow senior Suzie Barnes broke single-season records in steals with 41 and runs scored with 64.

As a team, Oregon set a record by turning 35 double plays.

'I'm proud of their offensive records, I'm proud of much improved defense, but I'm most proud of the quality of this team, the character of this team,' Arendsen said.

One thing is for certain next season - the Ducks will have a new look, particularly with the likely absence of Salling, who will utilize an Olympic-year redshirt to compete with the Canadian National Team.

Salling will tryout for the team at the end of September and will find out if she made the squad in mid-to-late October. Salling has played for Team Canada before and calls her selection to the National Team 'likely.'

'It's a hard situation,' Salling said. 'The Olympics is definitely a once-in-a-lifetime thing. It's hard for me to leave my teammates here, but I would never want to give (the Olympics) up.'

The Ducks will also be losing seniors Barnes, Topps and steady first baseman Kristi Leiter. But Arendsen is looking for considerable competition in many positions next year, especially with one of her top recruiting classes set to arrive and a wealth of talent returning, including five of the Ducks' seven top hitters and two pitchers from last season.

Along with returning injured senior Kayleen Hudson for another year, Oregon will welcome in five new players next season in first baseman Monique Fuiava, second baseman Cortney Kivett and her versatile twin Ashley Kivett, catcher Kaitlin Vitek and left-handed pitcher Brittany Rumfelt

'It will obviously be a loss if (Salling's) not in the lineup for us next year,' Arendsen said. 'But we have great kids coming back.

'I'm very eagerly looking forward to next year. A new challenge awaits.'


(C) 2007 Oregon Daily Emerald via CSTV U-WIRE

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