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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. The Virginia softball team, under the direction of first-year head coach Eileen Schmidt, opens the 2008 campaign this weekend at the Kajikawa Classic in Tempe, Ariz. The Cavaliers begin play against Southern Utah (2-3) at 5 p.m. eastern time Friday, followed by a match-up with host and fifth-ranked Arizona State (3-1) at 10:30 p.m.

On Saturday, Virginia will face Oklahoma State (3-2) at 3:30 p.m. before taking on No. 25 Oregon State (2-3) at 6 p.m. The tournament comes to a close Sunday with the Cavaliers battling Western Michigan (0-0) at noon.

“It’s a tough tournament to open up with but I think we are ready,” Schmidt said. “We are ready to get some games in. A lot of teams opened up last weekend.”

UVa returns 10 letterwinners and seven starters from the 2007 squad that went 17-39 overall and 1-20 in Atlantic Coast Conference play. Schmidt also welcomes eight newcomers, including seven first-years and third-year transfer Carly Winger from Cal.

Second-year Kelly Haller returns after an outstanding rookie campaign in which she led the team in batting average (.401), home runs (11), hits (61) and RBI (47). Co-captains Meghan O’Leary and Whitney Holstun also return for their senior captains. O’Leary led Virginia on the base paths a year ago and was not caught stealing in her 13 attempts.

Holstun is one of three returning pitchers for the Cavaliers, along with third-year Karla Wilburn and second-year Nicole Koren. Left-hander Alle Rife, a freshman, is the lone newcomer to the UVa pitching staff this season.

Virginia will face off against three NCAA Tournament teams from last season in its opening event. Two of them will meet the Cavaliers on opening day in Southern Utah and Arizona State, one of eight teams to play in the Women’s College World Series in 2007. Oregon State is the other NCAA Tournament team from a year ago.

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