Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Washington Profile: Experienced Huskies Ready to Pounce in PAC-12 Race

General Overview/2016 Recap: The Huskies rolled over seven straight victories to begin the 2016 season, including a decisive win over eventual champion Oklahoma in the second game of the year. Victories over Minnesota and Notre Dame were part of that streak and made for an impressive start to the campaign.

Ali Aguilar will be a significant
part of the Huskies' success in 2017.
Photo: UW Athletics 
The Huskies took their first loss of the season to Texas A&M at the Mary Nutter Classic and defeats at the hands of Florida and Oklahoma State rolled around before the tournament's two weeks were done. Identical 6-5 victories over the Big Ten's Nebraska and Michigan gave even more credence to the Huskies' early-season rise and concluded the Mary Nutter in convincing fashion.

After Oklahoma State, the Huskies did not lose again for nearly a month and not until they reached PAC-12 conference play.

In conference play, the Huskies were swept by Oregon, but recovered and did not lose another conference series on the year, winding up on the losing end of single-game matchups against PAC-12 foes just four times through the course of the year.

A late-season three-game tilt visiting Baton Rouge saw the Huskies lose two out of three to the Tigers

In their own hosted Regional in Seattle, the Huskies enjoyed a victory over Weber State and two straight wins over Minnesota to advance to the Super Regionals. In the Supers round, the Huskies saw their World Series hopes dashed by consecutive single-digit losses 2-1 and 5-2 to Alabama in Tuscaloosa.

Around the Horn in 2016: (reflects departed players)
P - Taran Alvelo; Madi Schreyer
C - Morganne Flores
1B - (Courtney Gano)
2B - Taylor Van Zee
3B - (Tannon Snow)
SS - Ali Aguilar
LF - Casey Stangel/Kelly  Burdick
CF - Julia DePonte
RF - Trysten Melhart
DP - (Kimberlee Souza)

Carrying the Clipboards: 
Head coach Heather Tarr nears her 500th victory at the helm of the Huskies in 2017, her thirteenth season leading her alma mater. Her team has appeared in the NCAA tournament every year of her tenure, including a quartet of Women’s College World Series appearances and the 2009 National title. A former assistant and associate head coach at Pacific prior to returning to the coaching box at her alma mater, Tarr spent four seasons as a player at UDub, playing on two WCWS-bound squads during that time. She earned all-conference honors in what was then the PAC-10 in 1995, ’96, and ’97, and was named to the all-region squad in ’96 and ’97.

The husband of Huskies head coach Heather Tarr, D’Amico handles the defensive side of the ball for the Huskies. Having joined the Husky coaching staff in 2009, D’Amico joined a staff that was named the National Coaching Staff of the Year and led the Husky squad to the National title. In 2013, D’Amico spent one season as the head coach of the USSSA Pride in the National Pro Fastpitch league, also leading that program to a league championship.

Very similar to a former boss and now-rival, Mike Roberts is a former Kiwi-native men’s fastpitch players-turned-flourishing pitching coach at the collegiate level. Previously the pitching coach at Oregon, where he coached under the afore-mentioned now-rival Mike White, Roberts helped the Ducks to an elite level in the circle before making a lateral move to attempt to duplicate that success with the Huskies.

Additions: The incoming class of Husky freshmen include utility players Alyssa Simons; Kaija Gibson; and Maggie Gallagher; infielder Nicole Bates; catcher Gianna Carideo; and pitcher Samantha Manti.

Subtractions: The Huskies' departed senior class included first-team all-American Kimberlee Souza, as well as slugging first baseman Courtney Gano; pitcher Hailey Bator; and outfielder Dani Braun. Infielder Tannon Snow departed via transfer to Auburn after her freshman campaign was spent as a Husky.

The Huskies will open the 2017 regular season in Mexico at the Puerto Vallarta College Challenge, where they'll open the season against Auburn and will play BYU; Nebraska; and Oklahoma during the course of the weekend. 

Sophomore P Taran Alvelo impressed
as a freshman in 2016.
Photo: UW Athletics
At the Campbell/Cartier Classic in San Diego, the Huskies will take on San Diego State; Ohio; Northern Illinois; Rutgers; and UC-Riverside. 

The Mary Nutter Classic kicks off with a matchup of two College Football Playoff teams when the Huskies face Ohio State. They'll follow that up with faceoffs against Missouri; Northwestern; Texas; and UC-Santa Barbara to close out the tournament. 

The Judi Garman Classic in Fullerton includes three matchups against Big Ten teams, including Iowa; Indiana; and Northwestern, as well as Fresno State and Baylor. 

At their own hosted tournament in Seattle, the Huskies welcome in Minnesota; Penn State; South Dakota and hometown opponent Seattle University. 

In conference play, the Huskies will play host to Arizona State; UCLA; Oregon State; and Stanford and will visit Arizona; Oregon; California; and Utah, as well as a weekend set against Alabama in Tuscaloosa, mid-year.

Potential Strengths/Weaknesses ---
Strengths - Ali Aguilar is one of the most underrated, gifted players in the nation and after a breakout season in 2016, she stands to rank among the very elite in her senior campaign. Taran Alvelo impressed as a freshman hurler and enjoys the depth of Madi Schreyer behind her in the circle; pitching should be a particular strong point for the Huskies in '17.

Weaknesses - The Huskies lost all-American Kimberlee Souza, as well as infield slugger Courtney Gano. Both provide veteran leadership and incredibly powerful bats, and both will leave significant holes to be filled in their stead. The PAC-12 seems to be a bit in a state of limbo at this point in time, and the Huskies could just as easily catch a cool patch and fall to the backside of the 

Outlook for 2017: As previously mentioned, the PAC-12 is in a "could go either way" state this season, trying to recover from a subpar 2016 season and take advantage of quite a few departures from traditional power schools, specifically in the SEC. The Huskies lost a few pieces but, while valuable they were, irreplaceable they shall not be. It is a very legitimate possibility, bordering on the probable, that we'll see Tarr's club back in Oklahoma City.

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