PB COLLEGE SOFTBALL PREVIEW -2 t '4 4 PhotoMICHELLE LORD Owls coach Joan Joyce said the new home field will be a crucial element in recruiting and improving the team. Field of Dreams FAU has a conference championship and Title IX to thank for its new $300,000 facility. 1 By SHARON ROBB Staff Writer BOCA RATON - Florida Atlantic University coach Joan Joyce's field of dreams was built in 12 weeks and completed just in time for softball season. It still needs a few finishing touches. The $300,000 facility is scheduled to be dedicated Feb. 10 when FAU players and coaches receive championship rings for winning the athletic program's first Trans America Athletic Conference title in 1997. The Owls host Florida A&M that day in a doubleheader. "This is a classic example of Title IX benefits and rewards," said Athletic Director Tom Cargill. "Only because our women's programs are at the forefront were we able to fund and complete this project in record time. This one we are all very proud of. This has been the fast track of all fast tracks. League officials and other teams are amazed at how quickly we pulled it off." Particularly Joyce, senior women's administrator, veteran softball coach and teaching golf pro. Joyce, one of the sport's pioneers, said an on-campus facility is crucial for recruiting and team improvement. The players were commuting to Patch Reef Park for practice and games. "It's a huge advantage," Joyce said. "We had to take so much equipment over there all the time. It was a real pain. There is now a feeling like we're home on own field. It's a dream come true for these kids. "Just the idea of having a batting cage here so these players can go out any time is an advantage," Joyce said. Construction began Nov. 1. The lights and scoreboard are set to be installed later this month. Because of Monday's storm, a lot of infield clay ended up in right field and must be moved back into the diamond. The dugout floors are poured, 1997 RECORD: 42-29, 14-2 in Trans America Athletic Conference. COACH: Joan Joyce, fourth season, 112-79. HOME FIELD: FAU, 500 NW 20th St., Boca Raton. TOP RETURNEES: OF Jennifer Kintz (.346, 73 hits, 7 triples, Sr.); INF Lisa Schaus (.300, 63 hits, 8 doubles, Sr.); OF Alicia Smith (.275, 50 hits, 29 runs scored, Sr.); P Chris Sutcliffe (14-6, 1.13 ERA, 63 strikeouts, So., TAAC Tournament MVP); P Liz Niadna (19-13, 1.97, 108 strikeouts. So.); P Courtney Shoff (5-6, So.); IND Amy Alderman (5-4, Sr.); INF Jackie Catanese'(5-8, So.); OF Sherri Pla (5-6, Sr., Suncoast); C Margaret Ward (5-5, Sr., Plantation); Brandie Marshall (5-6, Jr.). TOP NEWCOMERS: INF Kimberly Nicosia (5-5, Fr., St. Thomas Aquinas); INF Suzanne Fledge (5-7, Fr.); INF Allison Gerzina (5-9, Fr.); C Micki Marshall (5-6, Fr.). OUTLOOK: The defending TAAC champions were selected to repeat as conference champions and are the top pick in the TAAC's East Division in the TAAC preseason poll. FAU was awarded the April 30-May 2 TAAC Championship Tournament. The team returns all but one starter. Five seniors and the pitching staff of last year's conference champion anchor the team. The schedule features five regular-season tournaments and Big 12 conference champion Missouri. Sutcliffe, who pitched sparingly last season because of numbness in her throwing arm and fingers, is undergoing tests to determine the cause of the abnormality, Joyce said. She has not pitched since the conference tournament. SCHEDULE FEB. 10-Florlda A&M, DH, 1 pm.: 14-Bethune Cookman, DH, 6 p.m.; 21-Stetson, DH, 6 p.m.; 24-at Fill, 6 p.m.; 28-FAU Worth Spring Invitational: Harvard, 9 a.m.; Illinois-Chicago, 11 a.m.; Villanova, 1 p.m.; Fill, 6 p.m. MARCH 1-FAU Worth Spring Invitational: Missouri, 4 p.m.; Furman, 6 p.m.; 2-Tournament Championship, 8 p.m.; 3-College of Charleston, DH, 2 p.m.; 5-at Speedline Tournament, Tampa: Texas, 2 p.m.; Robert Morris, 4 p.m.; 6-at Speedline Tournament, Tampa: Hoftstra, 6 p.m.; Indiana State, 8 p.m.; 7-at Speedline Tournament, Tampa: Mississippi, noon; 8-at Speedline Tournament Championship, Tampa: 9-St. Peter's, 3 p.m.; 10-Mercer, DH, 6 p.m.; 13-at Florida State Tournament: Drake, 3 p.m.; Central Michigan, 7 p.m.; Massachusetts, 9 p.m.; 14-at Florida State Tournament: Furman, 1 p.m.; Northern Illinois, 5 p.m.; 15-at Florida State Tournament, Championship, 10 a.m.; 21-Michigan State, 10 a.m.; Hartford, 2 p.m.; 22-Michigan State, 9 a.m.; Hartford, 1 p.m.; 24-Charleston Southern, DH, 5 p.m.; 26-at Charleston, DH, 2 p.m.; 27-Qeorgia Tech Buzz Classic, Atlanta: UNC-Charlotte, 1 1 a.m.; Drake, 6 p.m.; 28-Georgia Tech Buzz Classic, Atlanta: Georgia Tech, 1 0:30 a.m.; Nicholls State, 5:30 p.m.; 29-Georgia Tech Buzz Classic, Atlanta, Championship, 8 a.m.; 30-Mercer, DH, 2 p.m. APRIL 5-South Florida, DH, 1 p.m.; 7-FIU, DH, 6 p.m.; 9-at Campbell, DH, 5 p.m.; 10-1 2-at North Carolina Tournament; 17-Campbell, DH, 6 p.m.; 18-at Stetson, DH, 3 p.m.; 21-at Florida Southern, DH, 6 p.m.; 30-TAAC Conference Tournament at FAU. and, weather permitting, dugouts and a backstop should be installed by this weekend, Joyce said. "It's kind of neat watching this go up," Joyce said. "We want it to feel like a miniature stadium. There are berms where people can bring their lawn chairs and sit. There are bleachers behind home plate and a makeshift pressbox. There will be screens instead of chainlink fence so spectators behind home plate can see the game a lot easier." The Owls should be worth watching this year. The defending TAAC champions continue to build off last year's 42-29 success. The Owls, who lost only one starter, were picked to win the east division and win the TAAC tournament, which they are hosting in April. "The players aren't putting any pressure on themselves," Joyce said. "Now that we have won, it's a lot easier to get motivated. Their work ethics are enhanced because now they know what it's like to go out and win a conference title." The biggest concern is the availability of pitching ace Chris Sutcliffe, Most Valuable Player at the TAAC tournament. The sophomore has not pitched since the conference tournament because of numbness in her throwing arm and fingers. She is undergoing tests this week to determine the cause. "If she won't be ready to throw this year, we will have to be able to score a lot of runs," Joyce said. The schedule features five regular-season tournaments and Big 12 champion Missouri. "The better the competition, the better we get," Joyce said. "I would like to see us go 50-20 ... get into the regionals and at least get a chance to play at that level of competition. It's the only way to improve and build off what we have." I NOVA SOUTHEASTERN 1997 RECORD: 33-13, 11-1 In Florida Sun Conference. COACH: Robyn Handler, fourth season, 78-49. HOME FIELD: A.D. Griffin Sports Complex, 3301 College Ave., MAY 4-7-NAIA Southeast Region Championships at Columbus, Ga. ST. THOMAS UNIVERSITY 1997 RECORD: 27-17, 4-8 in Florida Sun Conference. COACH: Tony Yates, first season.