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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – The Virginia softball team (0-0, 0-0 ACC) opens the 2010 campaign this weekend at the Elon Tournament in Elon, N.C. The round robin format includes two games against UNC Wilmington and two games against host Elon. The tournament begins with an 11 a.m. game against the Seahawks on Saturday, followed by a 1:15 contest with the Phoenix. On Sunday, Virginia will face UNCW at 11 a.m. and Elon at 3:30 p.m. Live stats for all games will be linked on

The Cavaliers begin the 2010 season under third-year head coach Eileen Schmidt.

“It’s going to be nice to get on some dirt,” Schmidt said. “We have done all we can do inside but we are looking forward to seeing where we are. It will be a good opportunity for a lot of our players to get playing time. We should be good on our situations and positioning, where we might be lacking will be fielding on the dirt and seeing a lot of live pitching.

Virginia returns 10 letterwinners, including seven starters, from the squad that went 25-22 a year ago. Among UVa’s returning starters including outfielders Gianinna Cipolloni and Sarah Tacke. Cipolloni started all 47 games as a freshman in 2009 in center field, while Tacke will move back out to right after spending last season at first base. She is a three-year starter for the Orange and Blue. In the infield, senior Abby Snyder is back for her fourth season at third base, and sophomore Clara Kendall also returns at shortstop. Like Cipolloni, Kendall started and played every one of the team’s 47 games last year.

On the right side of the infield, junior Lauren McCaskey also returns. McCaskey is one of Schmidt’s most versatile athletes, having played almost every infield position in her two seasons. In the circle, two of Virginia’s four listed pitchers return – senior Nicole Koren and sophomore Stephanie Coates – while junior catcher Alison Pittman is also back with two years of experience under her belt. Other returning letterwinners include sophomore utility player Rachel Harvey and junior outfielder Cynthia Javaras.

Elon, a member of the Southern Conference, finished the 2009 season with an overall record of 15-32 and a conference mark of 6-15. The Phoenix were picked to finish eighth in the Southern Conference, determined in a vote of the league’s head coaches. Sophomore catcher Kaitlyn Piazzolla was also named to the preseason all-conference second team. Piazzolla returns as the leader in nearly every offensive category; she drove in a team-best 29 RBI to go along with eight doubles and seven home runs as a rookie.

Virginia leads the all-time series with Elon, 9-0. The two teams last met in a doubleheader in Charlottesville on April 18, 2002, with the Cavaliers earning the sweep 8-2 and 7-1.

UNCW, which hails from the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA), went 13-32 a year ago and finished 8-14 in the league. The Seahawks opened the 2010 season on Thursday with a doubleheader at Campbell in Buies Creek, N.C. UNCW dropped the first game 8-0, but rebounded to win the second, 3-2. UNCW returns sophomore outfielder Kelsey Eddinger, who hit .327 as a rookie and scored a team-best 19 runs. Junior outfielder Rachel Sawyer hit .300 a year ago.

Virginia leads the all-time series with UNCW, 14-1. The two teams last met in Charlottesville on February 11, 2006, with the Seahawks earning their only win over UVa, 3-1.

The Cavaliers are 18-12 all-time in season openers. Last year, Virginia opened the year with a 6-3 win over Middle Tennessee in Greenville, N.C.

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