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UHV earns bid into NAIA national tournament

May 9, 2012 at 12:09 a.m.


UHV AT THE NAIA TOURNAMENT

UHV AT THE NAIA TOURNAMENTMay 17 to 24 in Gulf Shores, Ala.

• Pool play among the 32 teams qualified begins May 17 at 9 a.m.

• Top 8 begins May 21 at 10 a.m.

At-large bids: Lubbock Christian, Azusa Pacific (Ca.), Shorter (Ga.), UHV, Lee (Tenn.), Southern Nazarene (Okla.), Brenau (Ga.), St. Gregory's (Okla.)

They found out their future together as a team, which was fitting. If the University of Houston-Victoria is to have any success at the NAIA Softball National Championships later this month, they will need such togetherness - and the Jaguars know it.

Monday afternoon the Jaguars (39-8) and head coach Keri Lambeth learned they were among the eight teams that qualified for the tournament in Gulf Shores, Ala.

"We are excited and we knew we played really well this season," Lambeth said. "It feels good that the girls have worked really hard and I think they deserve it."

They were the fourth at-large selection, in the 32-team tournament that begins May 16. Lubbock Christian (54-7), Azusa Pacific (40-10) and Shorter (Ga.) (46-11) were seeded ahead of UHV.

The Jaguars will make their second appearance at the national tournament in the program's five year history. None of the girls on the 2009 team that went 1-2 at the national tournament have eligibility remaining because the university only admitted upperclassmen at the time. However, Jaguars assistant coach Lindsey Ferguson was on that first national qualifier.

Eight teams earned at-large selections, while the other spots were nabbed by host school University of Mobile and automatic qualifiers from more than a dozen conferences from across the country.

Lambeth said the program has consistently played at a level worthy of making the national tournament each of the last five years. Considering the Jaguars success against the NCAA programs they faced this year, and elite NAIA programs like Shorter and William Carey has made the program better.

It helps to have players like senior pitcher Emily Bergstrom (22-3, 1.99 ERA) and junior shortstop Brittany Arredondo (.470 batting average, 35 runs). Both women were first-team selections to the Association of Independent Institutions All-Conference team Juniors Dawn Villegas, Ariel Gomez, Ashley Shannon and Calhoun graduate Porsha Ramos were second-team selections.

"We are a team. It will take every single person on this team to get us where we want to go," Lambeth said. "That has been our theme the entire year: we live as a team and we die as a team. If we can remember that and stay tough we won't have any problems no matter what comes our way."

The Jaguars had a chance to earn one of two berths from the Association of Independent Institutions however, they lost to Thomas (Ga.) in the conference tournament last week and had to await their fate.

Prior to that 4-0 loss to the Night Hawks UHV won 14 of 15 contests. Lambeth said her team will need to find that form again to be successful in south Alabama.

"We need to relax and play our game," Lambeth said. "We have all been playing since we are 5 years old. This is the dream we have tried to work toward and we will see what happens."

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