Jan. 28, 2004
Tallahassee, FL –
The National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) released its first poll of the 2004 season Wednesday and Florida State once again found itself among the nation’s top 20. The Tribe debuted at No. 19, one spot above of their ranking in the ESPN/USA Softball preseason poll. Similarly to the ESPN poll, six of the NFCA’s top 10 teams are Seminole opponents.
“This first two polls illustrate just how tough are schedule could be this season,” said head coach Dr. JoAnne Graf. “When you face six of the nation’s top 10 squads, you have your work cut out for you. Even more impressive is the fact that we are scheduled to play nine top 25 teams and we are in tournaments with 15 of the 25 teams in the first NFCA poll.”
Florida State returns seven of nine starters from a 2003 squad that entered the NCAA Tournament on a nation’s-long 27 game winning streak and with a top 10 ranking. Both FSU starters in the circle are returning after compiling the nation’s fourth-lowest ERA last season and for just the second time in school history FSU will open the season with two returning NFCA All-Americans in Jessica van der Linden (first team) and Elisa Vasquez (third team).
“It is a great thing for them (Vasquez and van der Linden) if they keep their focus up. Sometimes seniors have a way of letting down as they look toward their future,” said Graf. “Both of those kids are looking at their future but hopefully we can keep them focused on the season. If they have the same type of years they had last year, it is going to really help us a lot and take some pressure off other players. I am keeping my fingers crossed on that.”
With a strong pitching staff already in place, the Tribe will look to build on last season at the plate when they posted the best power numbers in team history. No previous squad had ever combined for more doubles, home runs and RBIs in a season than the 2003 team. On top of that, three returning Seminole starters slugged over .520 last season. That was just the second time in two decades that three Seminoles all slugged over .500 in a season and this is the first time ever all three players are returning.
The Tribe will need to keep those numbers up despite the loss of two-time All-American Brandi Stuart especially with a schedule that includes No. 4 Oklahoma, No. 5 Washington, No. 8 Nebraska, No. 9 Louisiana-Lafayette, No. 10 Michigan, No. 10 Texas, No. 18 Texas A&M, No. 20 Arizona State and No. 22 South Carolina. The Seminoles will also be in tournaments with six other ranked opponents including No. 2 Arizona, No. 3 Cal and No. 7 Georgia.
Florida State opens the 2004 campaign at home February 6 at 4:00 p.m. versus Minnesota and follows that game at 6:00 p.m. versus Florida A&M in the Seminole Classic Tournament. For more information on the 2004 Seminole softball team or any of Florida State’s athletic teams, please log on to the official athletic website for Florida State University at www.seminoles.com.