Softball releases 2009 schedule
For the third consecutive season, the JU softball team has its work cut out for them starting on Feb. 6 as the Dolphins release their 2009 schedule on Wednesday.

The Dolphins, who start spring practice today, face a tough schedule that includes nine 2008 NCAA Tournament participants, six teams ranked or receiving votes in the final USA Today/National Fastpitch Coaches Association Top 25 poll last season and five defending conference champions.

“Spring is finally here,” said JU head coach Amanda Lehotak, who enters her third season at the helm. “We have another well balanced schedule of Top 25 teams and mid majors this year. If we can continue to learn how to win and compete at a high level everyday I think we will have a strong season.”

The Dolphins open the 2009 season with games against Auburn and Texas A&M-CC on the first day of the FIU Combat Classic. They are also set to take on NCAA Tournament participants North Carolina and Louisville before finishing the tournament with host FIU (Feb. 8).

JU starts its home slate on Feb. 11 against nationally-ranked Florida for a single game at 5 p.m. The Gators finished third in the nation in 2008 after posting an NCAA record 70 wins.

Following the game with the Gators, the Dolphins will host Presbyterian, Northern Colorado and Iowa State for a home tournament starting Feb. 13. They will also host another home tournament beginning Feb. 27 with Vermont, Marist and Coastal Carolina.

The Dolphins wrap their early tournament schedule starting March 13 when they head to Clearwater, Fla., for the USF Under Armour Showcase to face Loyola Marymount, Central Michigan, Boston, UMass and USF.

Other notable non-conference contests include a game against Conference USA champion and in-state rival UCF (Feb. 18) along with road doubleheaders at Georgia Southern (Mar. 3) and Florida State (Mar. 18).

JU kicks off its 20-game Atlantic Sun schedule with three straight home doubleheaders against Campbell, Florida Gulf Coast and Stetson.

After a trip to face Belmont and Lipscomb in Nashville, the Dolphins host cross-town and conference rival UNF on April 1 at the JU Softball Complex. The doubleheader will also be another installment of the growing SunTrust River City Rumble rivalry.

The Dolphins finish the A-Sun home slate against Mercer and Kennesaw State in consecutive days starting April 10, before heading off to face USC Upstate (Apr. 17) and East Tennessee State (Apr. 18).

The 2009 A-Sun Softball Championship is once again hosted by Stetson at Patricia Wilson Filed in DeLand, Fla. starting May 7.

The Dolphins enter the 2009 season returning 13 players from last season’s squad, which had a six-win improvement against teams like Florida State, Minnesota and Georgia Southern. Sophomore infielder Katie Kelly returns after leading the Dolphins last season in batting average (.317), hits (53), RBI (24), on-base-percentage (.386) and assists (152) to receive A-Sun all-freshman team honors.

In the fall, the Dolphins continued its upward swing with the program’s first flawless preseason with an 8-0 mark. They finished the fall hitting .312 (69-221) with 42 runs scored, 28 RBI and 17 doubles. In the circle, JU posted a 1.60 ERA in 57 innings of work with 46 strikeouts and had four complete-game efforts.

Junior shortstop Shannon Monahan was the squad’s leading hitter after batting .500 (15-30) with seven doubles, three triples, 10 RBI and six runs scored. Junior Ashley Iveson won three decisions and allowed no earned runs in 19.1 innings to lead the pitchers.