2003 Softball Schedule Includes Six Preseason Tournaments

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Jan. 14, 2003

EUGENE - The University of Oregon softball team kicked off the 2003 season with practices beginning Jan. 8. The Ducks are preparing to hit the road for six consecutive preseason tournaments, including the season opener Jan. 31-Feb.2 in San Marcos, Tex.

As always, the Pac-10 will be the most competitive conference in the country this season. Seven of eight conference teams competed in the NCAA Tournament and for the fourth consecutive season, the Pac-10 sent four teams to the College World Series, including 2002 national champion California. When the season concluded, seven Pac-10 teams were ranked in the USA Today/NFCA Top-25.

Oregon will have sufficient time to prepare for the Pac-10 as the Ducks embark on six preseason tournaments that will take them from California to Texas to Florida.

When Oregon heads to Tallahassee, Fla., for its second weekend of play, the Ducks Florida State, which finished the 2002 season ranked No. 4, and Georgia, which was ranked 22nd in the final poll last season.

Oregon's third preseason tournaments takes them to San Diego, Calif, to face, among others, No. 7 Michigan. In all, the Ducks will play five games in the two-day tournament.

The preseason tournaments conclude with stops at Houston, Texas; St. George, Utah; and San Jose, Calif. The Ducks' first home appearance with be a doubleheader vs. Portland State, March 13, and they will hit the road to begin Pac-10 play, traveling to Arizona, March 28, followed by a Bay Area trek April 4-6.

The Pac-10 home season begins with the Washington schools April 11 and the Ducks will find themselves home for a two-week stretch, facing UCLA April 12-13, Oregon State April 18-19, Arizona April 25 and Arizona State April 26-27.

First-year head coach Kathy Arendsen has taken over the Oregon softball program andwith seven starters and 11 letterwinners returning, the former Mississippi State coach believes she has the tools and the system to return the Duck softball program to the postseason after a two-year hiatus.

'Obviously the postseason is our primary goal,' Arendsen said. 'The biggest difference here at Oregon is that we're not starting from scratch. We have inherited a program that has had success and I'm trying to restore that, not build something new.'

Oregon's squad from a year ago remains nearly intact - the Ducks lost just three players, including four-year starting pitcher Connie McMurren. Experience and an understanding of competing in the Pacific-10 Conference won't be lost on this season's team. Learning a new system from a new coaching staff will be the primary focus.

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