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April 30, 2010
12:58 p.m.

CHARLOTTESVILLE — This is the final weekend of the regular season for UVa’s softball team. The Cavaliers are in unchartered territory, and that’s a great place to be, says third-year coach Eileen Schmidt.

“This is the first time that I think we’ve ever been in a position where we actually control it,” Schmidt said. “We don’t need anybody’s help. We can do it ourselves.”

UVa fielded its first varsity softball team in 1980. In their 31st season, the Cavaliers are still awaiting their first appearance in the NCAA tournament. The breakthrough may well come this year.

In the ACC standings, UVa (12-5 conference, 32-18 overall) is second. Third is 22nd-ranked Florida State (10-8, 39-14), which is in town for a three-game series at The Park.

The teams will play a doubleheader Saturday, starting at 1 p.m., and then complete the series Sunday at noon. Virginia’s seniors — Nicole Koren, Abby Snyder and Sarah Tacke — will be recognized after Sunday’s game.

Virginia, which has not beaten FSU since 2006, needs one win this weekend to clinch second place in the ACC. In the latest RPI, Schmidt said, Florida State is No. 24 and UVa is No. 27.

“We have a chance to really help ourselves,” she said.

In many sports, including men’s basketball and baseball, the ACC is considered one of the nation’s elite conferences. Not so in softball. That may work against UVa, which was picked to finish seventh in the eight-team league.

“I think the problem is that we’re doing well, so everybody says the ACC must not be very good,” Schmidt said.

“Actually, we’re better, and everybody else is still where they were and beating each other up. When you look at it, I think the ACC is actually really strong this year. We have a chance to get four in [the NCAA tourney].”

And UVa has a chance to make history by being one of those teams. Which makes all of this fun for Schmidt and her players, right?

“Yeah, it is,” she said. “You think at this time of year that everybody’s tired. But even our old kids say, the old ladies say, this is the best that they’ve felt physically. We’re in great shape. It’s just if we’re in shape mentally, and I think the winning part of it kind of rejuvenates you from a mental standpoint.”

Jeff White

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