January 14, 2004 - by
Softball Opens 2004 Season Ranked 20th By USA Softball/ESPN.COM

Jan. 14, 2004

Tallahassee, FL –
The first softball poll of the 2004 season was released Wednesday and the Seminole softball team will start the year ranked 20th in the USA Softball/ESPN.com Top 25 poll. The Tribe is the only ACC team in the poll and this is the fourth straight season FSU has opened a season ranked in the top 25. Eight Florida State opponents are in the inaugural poll as well including five of the nation’s top 10 teams.

“It is always nice to be included in the national polls but there is so much softball to play that this will obviously be changing through out the year,” said head coach Dr. JoAnne Graf. “This first poll does go to show that this may be our most difficult schedule ever. When you face five of the nation’s top 10 squads and eight of the top 20 teams, you have your work cut out for you. If we are able to take care of things on the field that will take care of everything else.”

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 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 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.”

Van der Linden is coming off a season where she was a top 10 finalist for USA Softball National Player of the Year honors on top of ACC Player of the Year, Easton First Team All-American and NFCA First Team All-American. No player in the nation had a higher batting average (.412) and lower ERA (1.07) than did van der Linden. With the graduation of two-time NFCA All-American Brandi Stuart, van der Linden will be counted on to provide fireworks at the plate for FSU once again in 2004.

The Tribe will need van der Linden and her teammates at their best due to a schedule that includes No. 4 Oklahoma, No. 5 Washington, No. 7 Michigan, No. 8 Nebraska, No. 9 Louisiana-Lafayette, No. 11 Texas, No. 17 Texas A&M and No. 19 Arizona State. The Seminoles will also be in tournaments with seven other ranked opponents including No. 2 Cal, No. 3 Arizona and No. 10 Georgia.

Florida State opens the 2004 campaign at home February 6 versus Minnesota and 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.

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