Continuing the Climb

Jan. 26, 2005

In just their second season, the Dolphins made great strides in 2004, despite facing a treacherous schedule which featured 18 games against NCAA regional participants. JU knocked off No. 24 Southern Illinois and upended No. 10 Florida State, which eventually advanced to the Women's College World Series.

The Dolphins enjoyed standout individual performances, including shortstop Dianna Korcak, who earned Second-Team Academic All-America honors after establishing a new NCAA Division I single-season record with 17 triples.

Korcak is just one of several key players who JU will have to replace as the Dolphins begin their third season in the Atlantic Sun Conference. They also lost the program's all-time home run leader in Sonja Cadarette and the top three hitters from 2004 - Korcak, Monica McGee and Ronda Campo.

This year's team will rely on a strong starting pitching staff, including staff ace Katie Dobson, as well as a solid influx of new talent to complement an experienced core of returnees.

The 2005 Dolphins are head coach Jeff Franquet's most experienced squad yet. Nine players, including three seniors and three juniors from the team's inception, return to form a solid nucleus.

"Having players with two years of experience makes a big difference for us," said Franquet. "This is the most athletic group of players I've ever coached. Our defense will be much improved, which will help our pitching. We feel we can challenge for a spot in the A-Sun Championship this May."


Katie Dobson

The Dolphins will be led by junior ace Katie Dobson, who led JU and was among the A-Sun's leaders in appearances (36), innings pitched (202.1) and strikeouts (170) as a sophomore. Dobson, JU's career leader with 20 wins, hurled a pair of no-hitters as she proved to be the Dolphins' workhorse in the circle.

Sophomore Katie Buell returns after tossing two perfect games and four shutouts during her freshman campaign. She will compete to be the Dolphins' No. 2 starter. Buell is a hard worker with a great attitude and has worked on developing a strikeout pitch.

Two newcomers will also bolster the pitching staff - freshman Shannon Jensen and junior transfer Randa Blenden. Jensen, who had a 0.57 ERA as a senior at Trinity Christian Academy in Jacksonville, could push Buell for the second starter's role after a productive fall. Blenden will help lead the team's younger pitchers and will contribute quality innings in the circle.

Last year's strength - the infield - is full of question marks after the Dolphins graduated three starters from a year ago, including all-conference shortstop Dianna Korcak. Senior Lauren Redfern and juniors Kacey Yourous and Janine Palumbo combined to start 184 games last year for JU and will anchor the Dolphins' infield.

Redfern returns at first base after ranking second on the club with 31 RBI, while finishing second among last year's starters with a .979 fielding percentage. Yourous is the Dolphins' top returning hitter after batting .263 a year ago and will see time at catcher and first base and third base.

Janine Palumbo

Palumbo is JU's top returning catcher. She led the Dolphins last year with a .993 fielding percentage and has proven to be a clutch hitter. Redfern, Yourous and walk-on Jessica Gabbard will back up Palumbo behind the plate.

Junior transfer Stephanie Farabee will replace Campo at second after hitting .342 last year at Florida Community College-Jacksonville. Fellow transfer Lindsey Freitag will man shortstop after teaming with Farabee to help lead FCCJ to 79 wins the last two seasons.

Yourous and sophomore Stephanie Beasley will battle for the starting spot at third base. Both lack experience at the hot corner, but showed good progress during fall practice.

The Dolphin outfield is a mix of old and new. Senior Mayte Diaz returns as the starting left fielder. Diaz was one of just three Dolphins to start all 64 games a year ago and ranked fourth on the squad with 24 RBI. She also had four assists and 81 putouts on the year.

Junior transfer Katie Pestrak will open the season in center field. The Santa Fe (Fla.) Community College transfer has great speed and good arm strength. She will likely be the Dolphins' leadoff hitter.

Junior Ashley Houston will start in right field. Houston is an outstanding athlete who played in 59 games a year ago, including starts at four different positions.

The outfield reserves include senior Jamie Ross and freshman Jillian Mirante. Both have good speed and are excellent defensive players. Yourous could also see some time in the outfield after starting 35 games in right field as a sophomore.

JU's schedule once again features some of the top competition in the nation. The Dolphins will compete in five tournaments, including the squad's first trip to Honolulu to compete in the Hawaii Paradise Classic to open the season. JU will also play national powers Washington, Oregon, USF, Stanford and Florida State, as well as NCAA regional particpants Hofstra, Seton Hall, Florida, Temple, Chattanooga, Illinois-Chicago and UMass. The Atlantic Sun Conference slate features home games against rival Stetson, Georgia State and Mercer. The Dolphins play four of their first five conference series at home, but their final two A-Sun series are on the road at perennial powers Florida Atlantic and UCF as they make a push for their first appearance in the A-Sun Championship in May.