Season Preview: New-Look Softball Team Prepping For 2004 Season

Feb. 6, 2004

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - The 2004 Terrapin squad will be steeped in speed and veteran pitching, but will rely on a strong incoming freshmen class and the versatility of upperclassmen to round out its defense. The Terrapins are coming off a 27-18 season, in which they placed fifth in the Atlantic Coast Conference. The hard-working, closely knit group's success depends on how well some key players recover from injuries and how others fill in at new positions.

In the Pitcher's Circle
Pitching will be one of this team's strong suits as it returns three upperclassmen to the rotation. Senior Monica Cyphert (Warren, Ohio) will serve as the Terrapins' ace for the second straight season. Last year, Cyphert put together her best pitching statistics of her career, compiling a 16-9 record and 1.51 ERA with 162 strikeouts. The powerful senior is also making her mark in Terrapin history, ranking third in career wins (35), ERA (1.73) and strikeouts (336). Cyphert not only dominated opponents in the circle, but also at the plate. She boasted a .322 batting average and put up the team's best numbers in RBI (31) and home runs (60). Her offensive efforts earned her a spot on the 2003 All-ACC Team as the designated player. Cyphert expects to make a full recovery from surgery performed on her right foot this offseason.

Along with Cyphert, junior Jessica Aditays (Shrewsbury, Mass.) is expected to play a major role in the Terrapin pitching staff. "We really need her to step it up this year, she looked very strong during her individual winter workouts," head coach Gina LaMandre said of the junior fireballer. After starting last season strong with a 3-0 record, Aditays finished out the 2003 campaign with career bests in wins (9), ERA (1.81), innings pitched (108.1) and strikeouts (84). LaMandre expects senior Liz Gall (Bothell, Wash.) to get more experience in the circle this season. After a year-long hiatus from pitching in a game situation, Gall went 2-1 with a 2.29 ERA. Gall, along with Cyphert, contributed to a no-hitter against George Washington. The Terrapins expect freshman Elyse Lucas (Newbury, Ohio) to round out the staff. The Ohio native holds many state records, including most career wins and lowest ERA in a single season. Newcomer Lindsay Klein (Orange, Calif.) is also expected to see some time in the circle in her first college season.

Behind the Plate
The other half of the Terrapins' battery includes two experienced players that complement the veteran pitching staff. Senior Casey Leiter (Lake Stevens, Wash.) will start behind the plate for the second consecutive season. In her 42 starts behind the plate, Leiter maintained a .982 fielding percentage, the second-highest among Maryland starters last season. She also gunned down 10 baserunners in 32 attempts. Offensively, Leiter knocked in 15 runs and showed discipline at the plate with a team-high 21 walks. In addition to Leiter, sophomore Rachel Greyson (Trabuco Canyon, Calif.) looks to put forth significant time behind the plate. Last season, Greyson batted .250 and sported a .417 slugging percentage.

Around the Horn
The Maryland infielders face the challenge of replacing players at three out of four positions. With the graduation of first baseman Jillian Callaway (Brandywine, Md.) and the departure of shortstop Malissa Moczulski (Burlington, N.J.), the Terrapins will rearrange their infield and introduce newcomers to the starting scene. Junior third baseman Crystal Rizzuto (San Leandro, Calif.) is the only starter returning to her traditional position from last season. Rizzuto maintained a .942 fielding percentage at the hot corner. Offensively, she came on strong at the end of the season in the ACC Tournament. Rizzuto batted .571 and posted a .714 slugging percentage. She also drove in four runs for the Terrapins.

Junior Nneka Cardoza (Brockton, Mass.) had a breakout season in 2003. After serving as a utility infielder and outfielder during most of her Terrapin career, Cardoza took over for an injured Jen Peel (St. Leonard, Md.) at second base midway through the season. This year, Cardoza will swap sides of the middle infield and serve as Maryland's starting shortstop. LaMandre was extremely pleased with Cardoza's work ethic throughout the transition. Cardoza doubled her games started total (37) from her freshman season and put up a .286 batting average. The speedy middle infielder placed second among her teammates in stolen bases (9) and tied for the team lead in on-base percentage (.411). Peel will sit out the beginning of the season due to an illness. LaMandre hopes the three-year starting second baseman will be able to return to the team by mid-spring. Last season, Peel started 22 games at second base and drew eight walks for the Terps.

The right side of the infield will be manned by two newcomers. Klein will take over for Callaway at first base. LaMandre scouts the first baseman as a great fielder who can hit the ball extremely well. As a result of Peel's illness and Cardoza's move to shortstop, freshman Keri Lounge (Pasadena, Md.) will assume second base. Lounge worked hard during the fall and winter season after recovering from a shoulder injury she suffered her senior year of high school. Whitney Wides (Gaithersburg, Md.) will serve a utility role for the Terrapins throughout the season.

In the Outfield
The outfield positions will also be juggled around from last season. The graduation of Samantha Sweeney (Marlton, N.J.) opened up a spot in centerfield that will be filled by last year's starting left fielder, Natalie Grossman (Skillman, N.J.). The sophomore patrolled the outfield in 35 starts during her freshman season and posted a .241 batting average. She contributed 21 hits to the Terrapins' offensive arsenal and also stole four bases. LaMandre hopes to see more consistency from her new center fielder as she takes over this key position. Junior Crystal Tweedy (Dumfries, Va.) had one of Maryland's best offensive showings during 2003. She led Maryland starters with a .325 batting average and topped out with a .400 on-base percentage and slugging percentage. Along with Grossman, Tweedy adds great speed to the outfield. She stole five bases for the Terps last season. The junior will head into the spring recovering from wrist surgery she had in the offseason. Last season's pinch-hitting sensation, junior Lauren Pollock (Severna Park, Md.), will return to a starting role in the outfield this season. As a freshman, Pollock started in 43 games and led Terrapin freshmen with a .248 batting average. Last year, Pollock suffered an injury that prevented her from starting most of the season. Pollock contributed four clutch pinch hits to the Maryland offense and carried a .298 batting average.

The Schedule
The Terrapins will face off against a solid group of teams this season. Maryland will take on six teams that are ranked in the preseason Softball poll, three of which are ranked in the Top 10. Ten of Maryland's opponents played in the 2003 NCAA Tournament. Maryland will open its season against Tulsa at the USF Tournament. The team will also play against Hofstra, a team that went to the NCAA Regionals last season. Maryland will take on preseason No. 24 Michigan State at the Florida International tournament, in addition to the tournament host and Stony Brook. The Terrapins will head to Athens, Ga., for their second straight appearance in the University of Georgia Tournament. Maryland will face a tough Georgia team that is ranked tenth in the preseason.

Maryland will face its toughest competition at the Florida State Tournament in mid-March. The Terps will kick off the tournament against Georgia State and Troy State. They will then face Notre Dame, a team that received votes in the Softball preseason poll. The Terps will take on No. 7 Michigan before heading into bracket play later in the tournament. The squad will begin its first homestand of the season against Rutgers and will host two home tournaments in late March. It expects to have tough road games against local rivals Towson and George Mason.

The ACC schedule will be competitive, especially with the addition of NC State's softball program this season. Maryland will take on No. 20 Florida State and Virginia at home. The team will handle NC State, North Carolina and Georgia Tech in road bouts.

The Terrapins will finish out their regular season with a doubleheader against No. 6 Alabama in College Park, Md. The Crimson Tide team returns seven starters from its 2003 team that went to the Women's College World Series.

With many players at new defensive spots, the Terrapins look forward to receiving the same strong pitching that brought them success in 2003.

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