Monica Abbott picked for USA national team

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. – It's a huge step toward fulfilling a dream for former Tennessee Lady Vol pitcher Monica Abbott, as the Amateur Softball Association, in conjunction with USA Softball, tabbed the Salinas, Calif., native to the 2008 USA Softball Women's National Team.

Three players among the current 18-member line-up will eventually be named replacements with 15 nominated to the United States Olympic Committee, prior to July 1, 2008, as the official roster for the 2008 Olympic Games.

The four-year process culminated with last week's final selection camp in Chula Vista, Calif. The 2008 USA Softball Women's National Team roster includes 12 players from the 2004 Olympic gold medalists in Athens, Greece, and 15 members of the gold medal-winning 2006 World Championship team.

"Being an Olympian is what I've dreamed about since the fifth grade," Abbott said. "One of my goals for my softball career was to get to the Olympics, and I'm so fortunate that this selection is helping me to close in on that goal. I'm ready and excited for the opportunity to play alongside an incredible group of players as we get ready for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing."

The squad will kick off a 40-city U.S. Tour titled ‘Bound 4 Beijing' in February, giving fans all over the United States the opportunity to see the 2008 National Team. The tour will make a stop in Knoxville on April 12 at the new Sherri Parker Lee Softball Stadium to allow Abbott a "homecoming" of sorts as the pitcher will lead the Red, White & Blue against the Tennessee Lady Vols live on ESPN at a time still to be determined.

Over the last two summers, the 6'3 left-handed hurler represented her country from the circle with the prestigious U.S. National Team at events such as the World Cup of Softball, the Japan Cup and the ISF Women's World Championships.

During the American squad's 2007 summer tour, the four-time collegiate All-American led the Red, White & Blue pitching staff with a 6-0 record in 26.2 innings pitched and a 0.00 ERA while twice defeating U.S. archrival Japan. She was third on the team with 46 strikeouts and allowed no extra base hits. In July, Abbott closed out the national team's efforts at the Pan Am Games in Brazil by hurling a two-hit shutout with eight strikeouts against Canada to secure the gold for Team USA, the program's sixth-consecutive Pan American gold medal.

Abbott joins Jennie Finch, Lisa Fernandez, Alicia Hollowell and Cat Osterman in formulating the 2008 pitching staff for U.S. Head Coach Mike Candrea.

During her senior season with the University of Tennessee Lady Volunteer softball team, Abbott won the 2007 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year trophy and was named the 2006-2007 Roy F. Kramer SEC Female Athlete of the Year. Also in June, the Salinas, Calif., native won the prestigious Honda Award for Softball after registering a national-best 50-5 overall record during her senior campaign with a 0.68 ERA and 29 shutouts to go along with a NCAA Division I single-season record 724 strikeouts.

Abbott led her team to the 2007 Women's College World Series, a runner-up national finish, and the 2007 Southeastern Conference regular-season title. She ended the 2007 season having set new NCAA Division I career records for wins (189), strikeouts (2,440), shutouts (112), appearances (253) and innings pitched (1448.0). Abbott is also the Lady Vols' first four-time NFCA First-Team Softball All-American, as well as being a three-time Southeastern Conference Pitcher of the Year winner and four-time All-SEC pick.

SOFTBALL SCHEDULE: Following a third consecutive trip to the Women's College World Series, a program-best 63-8 record and a national runner-up finish, co-head coaches Ralph and Karen Weekly and the 2008 version of the Lady Vol softball team are preparing to embark on another ambitious schedule.

As of this date with tournament draws still to be announced, the Orange & White are slated to face eight 2007 NCAA Tournament participants including four squads that advanced to the 2007 NCAA Super Regionals.

The Lady Vols welcome back 12 letterwinners and five position starters from last season's record-setting run to Oklahoma City.

Among the group returning to Rocky Top is two-time National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) All-American senior Tonya Callahan (.385, 16 doubles, 11 HRs, 60 RBI in 2007), UT's career home run leader (35).

Also returning are senior catcher Shannon Doepking, a first-team All-Southeastern Conference selection in 2007 after hitting .278 with eight doubles, six HRs, 28 RBI, sophomore utility player and 2007 SEC All-Freshman choice Tiffany Huff (.339, 11 doubles, six HR's, 58 RBI), senior second baseman Kenora Posey (.272, 29 stolen bases) and junior first-team ESPN the Magazine Academic All-American Lillian Hammond (.414, .469 on-base percentage, 14 stolen bases).

With the departure of four-time NFCA All-American hurler Monica Abbott, UT will look to experienced senior pitcher Megan Rhodes (13-3, 1.50 ERA, 186 Ks in 2007) for big contributions and leadership from the circle. Junior Danielle Pieroni and freshman Ashton Ward (Charlotte, N.C.) will be counted on to provide pitching support.

A special exhibition event is scheduled to take place during the 2008 Lady Vol campaign as Tennessee will serve as host to the U.S. Olympic Team at Lee Stadium on April 12. The contest will be televised live on ESPN as the prestigious national team continues its pre-Olympic tour.

The early season tournament slate will take the Lady Vols from coast-to-coast during February and early March. Included this year with the scheduled opening of Tennessee's new Sherri Lee Softball Stadium will be a home tournament, the Tennessee Classic, which will be contested in Knoxville over Feb. 22-24.

The campaign will officially open with trips to Palm Springs, Calif., for the Cathedral City Classic (Feb. 8-10) and Tampa, Fla., for the University of South Florida's Wilson Tournament (Feb. 16-18).

For the first time since the 2003 season, the Lady Vols will christen their home slate in February as Brigham Young visits Lee Stadium for the long-anticipated home opener on Feb. 21, before remaining in Knoxville as one of the six teams scheduled to participate in the Tennessee Classic. Virginia, Louisiana-Monroe, St. Joseph's, Wagner and BYU will join the Big Orange in the three-day event. UT will battle Liberty in a home doubleheader on Feb. 27 before returning to the road to complete its early-season tournament schedule.

Awaiting the Big Orange in Columbus, Ga., over Feb. 29-March 2 will be a daunting group of teams in the prestigious NFCA Leadoff Classic. Among the squads set to appear in pool play at the event are 2007 Women's College World Series participants DePaul and Texas A&M as well as 2007 NCAA Tournament teams North Carolina, North Carolina State, Tennessee Tech, Winthrop, Louisiana-Lafayette, Massachusetts, Illinois State, Michigan, Mississippi State, Florida State and Nebraska.

Following the NFCA tourney, UT returns to Lee Stadium for a mid-week doubleheader on March 5 against Tennessee Tech before diving into its rugged SEC slate.

The first league series of the season for the Lady Vols will occur in Tuscaloosa, where the Big Orange will face-off against the archrival Alabama Crimson Tide in a difficult three-game set over March 8-9. Other road trips in league play will send Tennessee to South Carolina (March 19-DH), Arkansas (March 22-23, three games), Auburn (March 29-30, three games) and Mississippi State (April 26-27, three games).

After the visit to Alabama, UT returns home for a doubleheader against Tennessee State (March 12) before playing host to Kentucky for a three-game league set over March 15-16. Also on the Big Orange's home schedule are doubleheaders versus Lipscomb (March 25), East Tennessee State (April 1), Western Carolina (April 9) and Austin Peay (April 22).

In conference action, the Lady Vols will welcome Georgia (April 5-6, three games), Mississippi (April 16-DH), LSU (April 19-20, three games) and Florida (May 3-4, three games) to the home confines in Knoxville.

The 2008 SEC Tournament is slated to be held in Baton Rouge, La., over May 8-10. The NCAA Tournament schedule will commence over May 16-18 with NCAA Regionals to be held at campus sites. The annual Women's College World Series in Oklahoma City, Okla., will be contested from May 29-June 4 at the ASA Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City


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