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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – The Virginia softball team opens the 2011 season Friday with two games at Campbell’s Hampton Inn Tournament in Buies Creek, N.C. The Cavaliers will face Southern Illinois Edwardsville at 11 a.m. followed by the host Camels at 4 p.m. Live statistics will be linked on

On Saturday, UVa will take on Drexel at 11 a.m. before seeding in the round-robin event determines whether the final game will be played at 4 p.m. or 6 p.m.

Virginia is coming off a season in which the squad made its NCAA Tournament debut and finished second in the ACC standings, its highest since 1997. The Cavaliers return 12 letterwinners, including six starters, from the team that went 34-23 overall and 13-7 in the ACC. Head coach Eileen Schmidt is in her fourth year at the helm.

In the conference preseason poll, UVa was picked to finish fourth. Sophomore all-league and all-region pitcher Melanie Mitchell returns for the Cavaliers after tying the school record for wins in a season (27) a year ago. Starters Giannina Cipolloni (OF), Lauren McCaskey (1B), Alison Pittman (C), Alex Skinkis (2B) and Taylor Williams (OF) also return.

SIU Edwardsville went 40-10 a year ago and returns its top hitter, junior Lindsey Barron (.317), in addition to four seniors. The entire pitching staff returns, highlighted by senior Erika Taylor, who saw most of the action with 217 innings of work in 2010. Senior Ali Downing and sophomore Lindsey Colman also return in the circle.

Virginia has never faced SIU Edwardsville in softball.

Campbell is a program that has reached the NCAA Tournament three times, most recently in 2009. The Camels are coming off a season in which the squad compiled a record of 23-31-1. Campbell returns seven starters for that team, including Sarah Forgacs, who led the way a year ago with an average of .349 as a freshman. Campbell also has some depth to its pitching staff, with four returnees and one newcomer in the circle.

The Cavaliers lead the all-time series with Campbell, 13-3. The two teams last met in 2005 with the Camels earning a 4-2 win.

Drexel went 20-24 last season and will look to fill the void left by Ashley Botelho, who departed as the school’s all-time leader in hits, home runs, RBI, total bases, batting average and slugging percentage. Junior Paige Collings is the team’s leading returning hitter after batting .338 a year ago while classmate pitcher Hillary Allen (2.33 ERA, 11-10) returns to the circle.

Virginia is 4-0 all-time against Drexel having last met for a doubleheader in 2002. The Cavaliers prevailed with 11-2 and 2-0 wins over the Dragons.

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