Cats Make USA Softball Olympic Team

Jan. 9, 2004

OKLAHOMA CITY - Three University of Arizona softball players will join UA's Mike Candrea on the USA Softball team that plays in the Olympics later this summer.

Former All-Americans Leah O'Brien-Amico, an outfielder and two-time Olympic gold medalist, former Honda Award winning pitcher Jennie Finch, and 2003 UA star Lovie Jung were named to the list of 15 players. Former All-American outfielder Nicole Giordano was named as an alternate.

The Olympic team plays in Tucson Friday, March 26, in an exhibition game against the 2004 Wildcats.

USA Softball announced today the 15 players and three alternates that will train for the next seven months in preparation of defending its gold medal at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece. Chosen from an 18-member team selected Sept. 8, 2003, the 15-players will be nominated to the United States Olympic Committee as the team to represent the U.S. in 2004.

The 15-member roster and three alternates for the 2004 USA Softball Olympic team are:

Laura Berg, Santa Fe Springs, Calif. - Outfielder Laura Berg is one of four two-time Olympic gold medalists to be selected to the 2004 Olympic team. Along with her two Olympic gold medals, Berg has captured gold at three World Championships and two Pan American Games.

Crystl Bustos, Canyon Country, Calif. - Third baseman Crystl Bustos captured gold at the 2000 Olympic Games and is one of the most feared hitters in the game today. In 2003, she led the U.S. to a gold medal at the Pan Am Games after collecting nine RBI in nine games.

Lisa Fernandez, Long Beach, Calif. - Right-handed pitcher Lisa Fernandez, who is widely regarded as the best softball player in the world, makes her third Olympic team. She has pitched in last two Olympic and World Championship gold medal games.

Jennie Finch, La Mirada, Calif. - A right-handed pitcher, Jennie Finch adds to the strong pitching staff among the 2004 USA Softball Olympic team. She is a 2003 Pan American gold medalist and 2002 ISF World Champion.

Amanda Freed, Cypress, Calif. - A 2000 Olympic team alternate, Amanda Freed joins the 2004 Olympic roster as an outfielder/pitcher after taking home the gold at the 2003 Pan American Games. In 2002, she also led the USA Softball National team to the ISF World Championship title.

Lori Harrigan, Las Vegas, Nev. - Left-hander pitcher Lori Harrigan is one of the four two-time Olympic gold medalists to be chosen for the 2004 Olympic team. In the opening game of the 2000 Olympics, she became the first pitcher to throw a solo no-hitter in Olympic competition.

Lovieanne Jung, Fountain Valley, Calif. - Second baseman Lovieanne Jung makes her first appearance on USA Softball Olympic roster. She captured gold at the 2002 ISF World Championships and the 2003 Pan Am Games. At the Pan Ams she hit .455 with a team leading 10 base hits in nine games.

Kelly Kretschman, Indian Harbour Beach, Fla. - A 2000 Olympic team alternate, this marks Kelly Kretschman's first Olympic team roster. A member in 2000 and now 2004, the 5'6' outfielder led the 2003 USA Softball Elite team to the Canada Cup gold medal title and a sweep of Olympic bronze medalist Australia in the Pacific Challenge.

Jessica Mendoza, Camarillo, Calif. - Outfielder Jessica Mendoza makes her first Olympic team roster after being a consistent member of the USA National Team since the 2001 season. She brings experience to the outfield after capturing gold at the 2002 World Championships and the 2003 Pan Am Games.

Tairia Flowers (formerly Mims), Tucson, Ariz. - A utility player at first base, third base and catcher, Flowers joins her first Olympic squad after three national teams. She is a 2002 World Champion and 2003 Pan Am gold medalist.

Stacey Nuveman, La Verne, Calif. - Catcher Stacey Nuveman was an integral part in the USA's come back during the 2000 Olympic Games. In the playoffs versus China she blasted the game winning home run and drove in the tying run in the gold medal game versus Japan.

Leah O'Brien-Amico, Chino Hills, Calif. - First baseman Leah O'Brien-Amico is considered as one of the best clutch players in the game. She is a two-time Olympic gold medalist, two-time World Champion and two-time Pan Am gold medalist. She returned to national team competition in 2002 after taking a year off to give birth to her son Jake Thomas Amico.

Cat Osterman, Houston, Texas - The youngest and only collegiate member of the Olympic roster, Osterman will provide depth in the circle in 2004. Leading the 2003 Pan American team to its fifth consecutive gold medal, the left-handed pitcher recorded a 2-0 record and tossed a perfect game against Canada in the gold medal game. In 2002, she was a member of the USA Softball Elite National team.

Jenny Topping, Whittier, Calif. - Providing depth behind the plate, Topping enters the 2004 Olympic team roster after taking home the 2003 Pan American gold medal.

Natasha Watley, Irvine, CA. - A highly recognized shortstop, Natasha Watley joins her first Olympic team after three National team appearances. She took home the 2002 World title and 2003 Pan American title. She was honored in 2003 by the NCAA as the Top Collegiate Female athlete and finished the 2003 season batting .432 in the lead-off spot for Team USA.

Coaches for the 2004 USA Softball Women's Olympic Team will be Candrea (Casa Grande, Ariz.) UA head coach; Assistant Coach Ken Eriksen (Temple Terrace, Fla.) from the University of South Florida; and Assistant Coach John Rittman, (San Jose, Calif.) from Stanford University.

The 2004 USA Softball Olympic alternates are:

Jaime Clark, Tustin, Calif. - Shortstop Jaime Clark is making her first Olympic team as one of three alternates named. She was a member of the 2003 Pan American gold medal team and hit .778. A former standout at the University of Washington, Clark was also a member of the 2001 Pan American Qualifier team.

Nicole Giordano, Saugus, Calif. - A 2003 Pan American gold medalist, outfielder Nicole Giordano lists as an alternate for the 2004 Olympic team. She has been a member of three National team rosters and also led the U.S. to the 2002 ISF World Championship gold medal.

Lauren Lappin, Anaheim, Calif. - One of three alternates named the to the 2004 Olympic squad, 19-year-old Lappin makes her first appearance among the national team ranks. During the 2003 season, this shortstop/catcher led the USA Softball Elite squad to the gold medal at the Canada Cup and a sweep of Olympic bronze medalist Australia in the Pacific Challenge.

The 15-member roster consists of four two-time Olympic gold medalists and six of the 15-member 2000 Olympic Team. Twelve of the 15 named were members of the 2002 World Championship gold medal winning team.

Narrowed from a field of 46 of the nation's top female softball players, the 15-member roster and three alternates will begin their quest for gold on February 20 in Palm Springs, Calif. with the kick off of the 'Aiming for Athens' tour. Consisting of two parts - a collegiate tour and a grassroots tour- the team will travel the nation before departing in late July for Athens.

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