Notre Dame faces Big East challenge at Villanova
This Friday, the No. 9 Irish women's softball team faces possibly their biggest test in Big East play, as they face second place Villanova on Friday in a road double header.
The game will clarify the Big East picture and could decide the conference's regular season championship.
The Irish have won 29 straight, the longest streak in the nation, and are currently undefeated in the Big East at 16-0. Villanova stands at 13-3 after losing both games of a double header to Connecticut.
"This is an unusual situation for them," says coach Liz Miller on the Wildcats. "Usually the best teams in the Big East are UConn, BC and us."
Villanova stands at a strong 38-6 on the season, but Miller explains that record might be deceiving.
"We will be the best team they've faced all year," Miller said, pointing out that Villanova does not play the strong schedule that the Irish do. "They haven't faced the pitching they're going to see."
The pitching match-ups will most likely be Notre Dame's Jen Sharron (24-2, 1.04) vs. Villanova's Theresa Hornick (16-1, 0.74) in game 1, followed by Irish hurler Kristin Schmidt (23-1, 0.43) against Wildcat Keri Stoller (19-5, 1.40). Schmidt was the most recent Big East Player of the Week, tossing four shutouts, including a one-hitter and a no-hitter. Miller said Hornick is a drop ball pitcher, while Stoller is a rise ball pitcher.
In addition to dealing with Villanova's strong record, Notre Dame will also have to counter Villanova's style.
"They have a lot of speed, and a lot of lefties. They're very similar to DePaul," said Miller. "We'll have to adjust defensively."
Villanova showcases two highly talented offensive players in Jackie Pasquerella and Sara Carlson. Pasquerella is hitting .356, but the speedster's best statistic is her 24 steals in 25 chances. Carlson is the slugger of the team, hitting eight home runs with a .753 slugging percentage.
On Saturday, the Irish will complete their Big East schedule at Rutgers in a doubleheader, then look forward to the Big East Championship, starting May 10.
All Sports Stories for Wednesday, May 2, 2001