Feb. 6, 2007
Northwestern's Kajikawa Classic Notes in PDF Format
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Northwestern's Season Outlook from the 2007 Media Guide in PDF Format
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EVANSTON, Ill. -- Welcome to the new season, which brings with it a new mountain to climb.
After winning the Big Ten title and finishing second at the Women's College World Series in 2006, Northwestern has its sights firmly set on its 2007 schedule, which kicks off Friday-Sunday, Feb. 9-11, at the Kajikawa Classic in Tempe, Ariz.
Entering the year as the preseason No. 4 team in the nation in both the USA Today/NFCA and ESPN.com/USA Softball coaches polls, the Wildcats face four-consecutive ranked opponents to begin their slate.
NU's first game is at 10 a.m. CT Friday, Feb. 9, against No. 13 Texas A&M, followed by a 4:30 p.m. CT clash with No. 21 Fresno State later that day. On Saturday, Feb. 10, Northwestern faces No. 8 Stanford at noon CT before a WCWS championship series rematch against No. 1 Arizona at 4:30 p.m. CT. The Wildcats' tournament schedule concludes at noon CT Sunday, Feb. 11, against 2006 Big West champion Cal State Fullerton.
At this time, it is anticipated that Gametracker WILL be available for all of Northwestern's games in the Kajikawa Classic. Should that change, an update will be posted on this page on NUsports.com.
The Wildcats take the field with three returning NFCA All-Americans. Senior pitcher Eileen Canney (Paradise, Calif./Paradise) earned second-team honors while senior Garland Cooper (Mission Viejo, Calif./Santa Margarita Catholic) and sophomore Tammy Williams (Roscoe, Mo./Osceola) were third-team selections.
The trio was named to USA Softball's 2007 preseason Player of the Year top-50 watch list. Cooper is ESPN's preseason first-team All-American at first base, while Canney earned a preseason second-team All-America nod.
To view the complete USA Softball POY watch list, link to USAsoftball.com.
To view the complete ESPN.com preseason All-America list, link to ESPN.com.
Also returning as starters for the 'Cats are senior All-Big Ten outfielder Katie Logan (Tempe, Ariz./Corona del Sol), junior third baseman Darcy Sengewald (Frankfort, Ill./Lincoln Way East) and sophomore catcher Erin Dyer (Homer Glen, Ill./Lockport), who started in right field for Northwestern during the 2006 season.
For Northwestern's complete Kajikawa Classic game notes package, click on the .pdf link at the top of this page. Following is Northwestern's 2007 season outlook, reprinted with permission from the 2007 media guide:
NORTHWESTERN'S OUTLOOK FROM THE 2007 MEDIA GUIDE
In her first five years as the head coach at Northwestern, Kate Drohan has built the program into a national power. Her .673 career winning percentage already ranks her 21st among active coaches in a profession with its share of legends. She, along with her twin sister and associate head coach Caryl Drohan, have succeeded by creating a tradition of leadership among the Wildcats.
Northwestern's run to the finals of the 2006 Women's College World Series was spearheaded by a group of five seniors who comprised the first class the Drohans brought to Evanston. With that quintet -- which graduated as the winningest class in NU history -- gone, another group of seniors is poised to take the 'Cats back to Oklahoma City.
"Our program has taken on the mission of Northwestern University, which is to produce leaders in the students' field of study," Kate says. "We have accepted that responsibility in our sport. Like last year's seniors, this year's group knows the mark they are leaving on the program."
Returning for their fourth season in purple are Eileen Canney (Paradise, Calif./Paradise), Garland Cooper (Mission Viejo, Calif./Santa Margarita Catholic), Katie Logan (Tempe, Ariz./Corona del Sol) and Jessica Miller (Elberfeld, Ind./Techumseh). The quartet realizes that in every season of their careers at Northwestern, the 'Cats have bettered their win total and finish in the NCAA Tournament. Following 2006's NCAA runner-up performance, only one more step remains.
"Our team has kept its focus throughout the fall, doing a good job of celebrating the growth of the program while at the same time striving to build upon the results we achieved last year," Kate says. "They understand the process and the work necessary to develop on an annual basis and also within the big picture of the program."
Canney was an NFCA second-team All-America selection in 2006, earning a 26-9 record with 383 strikeouts and a 1.20 ERA. She was named the Big Ten Pitcher of the Year, the first time Northwestern has earned that award.
Cooper picked up her second-consecutive Big Ten Player of the Year accolade last season and earned her second NFCA All-America honor after being named to the third team. She enters 2006 already owning seven Northwestern career-batting records.
Logan was a unanimous first-team All-Big Ten performer in 2006, and an NFCA first-team All-Mideast Region selection. Her 82 hits last year rank second on Northwestern's single-season charts.
Miller returns for her senior season with proven pop in her bat -- of her 17 career hits, 13 have been for extra bases (nine doubles and four home runs). She also features a gun of an arm from the outfield.
The Wildcats also return some immensely talented underclassmen. Junior Darcy Sengewald (Frankfort, Ill./Lincoln Way East) and sophomores Tammy Williams (Roscoe, Mo./Osceola) and Erin Dyer (Homer Glen, Ill./Lockport) combined to start all but six games last season.
Sengewald is Northwestern's defensive anchor at the hot corner, leading the team with 111 assists last year. She also produced with the bat, hitting postseason home runs against Ohio State in the Big Ten Tournament and Tennessee at the WCWS.
Williams had an outstanding freshman campaign, earning an NFCA third-team All-America honor, Big Ten Freshman of the Year accolades and setting Northwestern single season records with 65 runs scored, 139 total bases and 14 home runs.
Dyer, who will move to catcher in 2007 after earning a starting spot in right field as a freshman, had perhaps the most clutch hit of the year in
2006. With Northwestern trailing Alabama by a run with two outs and two strikes in the bottom of the seventh in the first game of the WCWS, Dyer launched a game-tying home run that enabled the Wildcats to make their run to the championship finals.
"We have some great talent returning, but it is talent that has produced in pressure situations," Kate says. "That is something we have cultivated in this program. We focus on fundamentals, but also on the big play or the big at-bat in the big game. Within our program, we have been able to lean on our experience while allowing the young talent to make an immediate impact."
Northwestern has a pedigree when it comes to attracting good, young talent. NU has earned two of the last three Big Ten Freshman of the Year awards (Canney in 2004, Williams in 2006), while Cooper claimed the overall conference batting crown in her initial season as a 'Cat. With the graduation of five starters from last year, the 2007 underclassmen have the opportunity to step up and contribute immediately.
Once again, Northwestern's veterans and newcomers will be tested early and often. The Wildcats have scheduled 28 games against teams that made the 2006 NCAA Tournament field, 25 against squads that finished in the top-50 of the NFCA RPI from a year ago and five against last season's WCWS participants.
"We try to build the most challenging schedule in the conference each year," Kate says. "By facing teams who perennially qualify for the NCAA Tournament and the World Series, we can prepare for the competitiveness of the Big Ten and postseason."
The tough slate also prepares the Wildcats for clutch situations. All three of NU's All-Americans earned Women's College World Series All-Tournament team berths in 2006.
After winning its first conference title in 20 years in 2006, Northwestern again figures to fight for the top spot in 2007. Capturing the Big Ten title and hosting the conference tournament for the first time in program history last season gave the Wildcats the opportunity to control their own road to Oklahoma City through Evanston.
"Winning the Big Ten title is a springboard toward doing well in the postseason," Kate says. "The conference across the board attracts the best and brightest student-athletes from around the country because our emphasis is both on winning games and doing great work in the classroom. At Northwestern, we strive to take those standards to an even higher level."
Returning to the circle for her senior season is the All-American Canney, but the 'Cats also lost an All-American to graduation in Courtnay Foster. Enter freshman Lauren Delaney (Jefferson City, Mo./Helias), who is one of the most highly touted recruits ever to come to Northwestern after setting state records in Missouri for ERA (0.11), strikeouts (1,096) and wins (84).
"Eileen has taken Lauren under wing and helped her transition to the college game, much in the same way Courtnay helped Eileen," Kate says. "We have always had a true pitching staff at Northwestern, which is a unique approach in our sport. The support and standards our pitchers place on each other are outstanding."
Canney had a breakout season in 2006, ranking second in Northwestern single-season history with her 26 wins and 383 strikeouts. She earned wins over six top-15 ranked opponents last year, including two victories over No. 1 UCLA.
"Eileen has excelled with each new challenge and has earned the respect of her teammates with her team mentality," Kate says. "She has developed into a real force in the circle, earning the respect of the nation, as well."
Sharing the spotlight with Canney in 2006 was Foster, who concluded her career with 1,014 strikeouts and earned a career-best 24 wins last year to give the Wildcats two 20-game winners for the first time in school history. Delaney already is adjusting to Northwestern and has made a commitment to replace Foster's production.
"Lauren is a true power pitcher with incredible talent," Kate says. "I am really looking forward to handing her the ball in the circle."
Following the graduation of All-Big Ten catcher Jamie Dotson, Dyer will move back to her natural position behind the plate. As a high school catcher, Dyer led Lockport to the 2004 Illinois state championship. She caught one game as a freshman, throwing out one of two runners who tried to steal against her.
"I am very proud of the way Erin plays the game," Kate says. "She has the ability to raise the level of play of those around her, and she will play a big role in the success of our pitching staff. We also will count on her to continue the clutch hitting we saw at the end of last year."
Also figuring to see time behind the plate is freshman Emily Haug (Jefferson City, Mo./Helias), who served as Delaney's catcher at Helias High School in Jefferson City, Mo. She broke school records with her career .457 batting average and 40 hits during her senior season.
"Emily is a smart catcher who has big-game experience," Kate says. "She has great focus and is another powerful threat from the left side of the plate."
At first base the Wildcats return Cooper, who combines the unique ability to hit for power and average. She claimed the Big Ten overall batting title as a freshman and owns the last two conference-only batting crowns. Her career .710 slugging percentage currently would rank her in the top-20 in NCAA Division I history and her performance last season earned her an invite to the USA Softball World University Games camp.
"Garland is incredibly invested in the idea of Northwestern
softball," Kate says. "With her combination of talent, work ethic, personality and competitiveness, she has proven to be a leader on our team, in our conference and on the national level in our sport."
Returning as the backup at first base is sophomore Erin Hampshire (Wilmette, Ill./New Trier), who also will compete to be the designated player because of her ability to hit for power. Her first-career hit was a pinch-hit home run at Drysdale Field that caromed high off Welsh-Ryan Arena.
"Erin will see a lot more at-bats this season," Kate says. "With the great power she possesses, she has the ability to change a game with one swing of the bat."
Northwestern must replace another starter from the 2006 squad after the graduation of Ashley Crane at second base. Leading the charge for time at second are sophomore Gina Gonzalez (LaVerne, Calif./Bonita) and freshman Nicole Pauly (Palatine, Ill./Palatine).
Gonzalez emerged as one of the Wildcats' top pinch-runners last season, appearing in 22 games and scoring five runs.
"Gina has great quickness and a true love for the game," Kate says. "With a year of experience in our system, Gina has made big strides."
Pauly had a career average of .460 in high school, setting Palatine's single-season record with a .496 average. A great athlete, she also lettered four years in basketball.
"Pauly has impressed us with her effort and quick adjustment to college," Kate says. "She is a strong player who can run and play several different positions."
Northwestern returns the heart of its defense at third base in Sengewald, who has made her share of "Web Gems" in addition to several clutch hits and at-bats in the batting order.
"Darcy is one of the toughest players on the team," Kate says. "Her intensity and skill have made the left side of our infield one of the top defensive tandems in the country."
Slated as the backup at third and also as an option at second base is sophomore Jessica Rigas (River Forest, Ill./Oak Park River Forest), who made 11 appearances last season as a pinch hitter, recording a double and a pair of RBIs. As a high schooler, she earned MVP honors in leading Oak Park River Forest to the Illinois state championship.
"Jessica has put in great work during the offseason," Kate says. "Because of that, she is right in the heart of the competition to get in the lineup."
Freshman phenom Williams is back for her sophomore campaign at the shortstop position. Setting Northwestern single-season records for runs scored, total bases and home runs, Williams also has expansive range and the ability to get to balls deep in the hole and behind the bag at second.
"Tammy burst onto the national scene last year as an unknown commodity, and has established herself as one of the top shortstops in the country," Kate says. "Her work ethic is second-to-none, and we again will rely on her fire and passion this season."
Pauly currently is slated as the backup at the shortstop position.
Headlining the returners in the outfield is Logan, who will shift from her familiar left-field position to center in 2007.
"Katie has continued the hard work that transformed her from a strong defensive player to a five-tool package," Kate says. "She has developed into a true leader, an excellent leadoff hitter and a smart baserunner."
Also back for her senior season is Miller, who will challenge for the starting spot in right field.
"Jessica will be expected to step up and fill a hole in the outfield as a senior," Kate says. "She has been an important role player for us the last three seasons, and we are counting on her powerful bat to be an important part of our lineup this year."
The lone junior in the outfield, Kristen Salamon (Kent, Ohio/Kent Roosevelt) has improved by leaps and bounds over the last two years.
"Kristen is another player whose hard work and attitude play an important role within our team," Kate says. "She is a stronger, better hitter who is fighting for a spot in the lineup."
Returning for her sophomore season is Ann Schraufnagel (Oak Park, Ill./Oak Park River Forest), who appeared in 42 games and scored 14 runs as NU's first pinch-runner off the bench last season.
"Ann is a very smart player, and she was an important part of our success with her baserunning in 2006," Kate says. "She has improved her swing and developed great strength in the offseason. She will be an outfield option in addition to having pinch-running duties this year."
A quartet of freshmen also figure on the outfield depth chart in 2007: Kelly Dyer (Homer Glen, Ill./Lockport), Aly Euler (River Forest, Ill./Oak Park River Forest), Ashley Lafever (Bettendorf, Iowa/Pleasant Valley) and Julia Sears (Chicago, Ill./Marist).
Dyer, the younger sister of Erin, was a strong pitcher who projects as an outfielder for the Wildcats.
"Kelly is an excellent athlete with great speed on the bases and in the outfield," Kate says. "She has done great work this fall and has quickly become one of the top outfielders in our program."
Euler is a product of Oak Park River Forest, where she won the 2005 state title with current Wildcats Rigas and Schraufnagel.
"Aly is another very quick runner who has the ability to create havoc on the basepaths," Kate says. "She also adds another left-handed slapper as an option to our lineup."
Lafever was a two-time Iowa all-state selection, hitting .417 as a senior to help her team to a 48-2 overall record.
"Ashley has worked very hard since coming to Northwestern," Kate says. "She is a smart player who runs the bases very well."
Sears is listed as a utility player this season, also serving as an option at second base.
"Julia is strong defensively and could fill any number of roles for us this year," Kate says. "She is one of the most explosive players on the team."