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February 9, 2012A new season has arrived for UCF Softball.
The Knights will play four games over the next two days at Dot Richardson's National Collegiate Softball Invitational in Clermont. Friday's matchups include Ohio State (11 a.m.) and Florida A&M (5 p.m.) while they'll take on Bethune-Cookman (3 p.m.) and Chattanooga (5 p.m.) on Saturday.
Video Interview: Coach Renee Luers-Gillispie
Video Interview: Freshman pitcher Mackenzie Audas
Video Interview: Senior shortstop Natalie Land
The 2012 team is a young one with only seven returning players from last season.
Offensively, the Knights will be led by senior Natalie Land who is making the move from second base to shortstop this season. Land is a two-time First Team All-Conference USA member (2010, 2011).
Other key returning offensive players include junior Marissa Menendez and seniors Allie Jest and Vanessa Perez.
Land will have alot of speed around her in the lineup with freshman outfielder Kahley Novak out of East Ridge High School expected to be at the top of the lineup. A couple other key new names to keep an eye on include freshman Farrah Sullivan who will play at first base and third base and will be hitting in the middle of the lineup.
Knights fans will see a familiar name from the past in freshman Hayley Barrow, who is the younger sister of Hillary Barrow (2007-2010), a key part of the 2008 C-USA Championship team and NCAA Tournament appearances in 2008 and 2010. Hayley Barrow will play some third base like her older sister Hillary did, but will also play some catcher.
Junior transfer Alena Murgatroyd will also play at catcher and help fill the shoes of Abby McClain (2008-11) behind the plate while also getting some playing time at DH when not catching.
The pitching staff is all brand new and will be led by freshman Mackenzie Audas who comes from Plant City High School where she was the District 5A-8 Player of the Year as a senior and the Tampa Tribune 2011 Softball Player of the Year.
Senior transfer Ali Schmidt as well as junior transfers Alex Hartshon and Hailey Barraco figure to get time in the circle behind Audas.
Other notable games on the schedule this season include a tournament against national powers UCLA and Washington in San Diego over the weekend of Feb. 17-19 as well as a trip to Tallahassee on Feb. 22 to take on Florida State.
The home schedule's marquee games include a showdown with Women's College World Series runner-up Florida on April 11 and conference series against Tulsa, Houston, Memphis and East Carolina, all of which made the NCAA Tournament last season.
The C-USA Softball Tournament will take place in Birmingham, Ala. on May 10-12.
Eric Lopez, the "Voice of UCF Softball," will be live on location in Clermont this weekend to broadcast all of UCF's games for UCFAthletics.com All-Access.