The Cal State Northridge women's softball team begins its drive for a fourth consecutive NCAA Division II championship today against UCLA, the defending Division I national champion, in a doubleheader in Westwood.
The Lady Matadors, however, will begin the season without three-time All-America pitcher Kathy Slaten.
Slaten will miss the first two weeks because of an injury to her right hand. She is suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome--an affliction caused when extreme pressure is placed on the index finger.
Slaten's injury cancels what would have been a match-up against UCLA freshman pitcher Samantha Ford, who dominated high school softball during her years at Hart High.
"I'm a little bummed," Slaten said. "I was looking forward to pitching against UCLA. I was just starting to get into my pitching."
Slaten, a senior, said she suffered the same injury last season, when she won 41 games. She had been practicing this season without problems until Monday.
"I just went to grab the ball and felt this pain," Slaten said. "After practice, it didn't go away. I work as a waitress, and that night I couldn't even pick up plates."
Following the games with UCLA, the Lady Matadors have consecutive doubleheaders scheduled against Division I opponents Nevada Las Vegas, Cal Poly Pomona and Cal State Long Beach.
"We have some gifted people out there, but it might take us a month to gel as a team," CSUN Coach Gary Torgeson said. Torgeson has compiled a 182-58-5 record in his four years as Lady Matadors coach. "I certainly don't hope to be 0-8, but going against Division I schools, well, you never know."
CSUN lost two All-Americans at the end of last season--third baseman Michey McAnany and catcher Stacy Lim. But the Lady Matadors should still have a potent offense, led by All-American Barbara Jordan. The junior center fielder set four school records in 1985, including most hits in a season with 68.
UCLA, which finished last season with a record of 41-9, has won consecutive national titles--three in the last four years.
The Bruins are hoping that Ford can help fill the void left when pitchers Debbie Doom (21-5) and Tracy Compton (20-4) graduated.
The Bruins have five starters back from last season's team, including senior catcher Janet Pinneau, who attended Granada Hills High. Pinneau had the game-winning hit in last season's 2-1 win over Nebraska that earned UCLA the national championship.
Gina Holmstrom, who played at L. A. Baptist, is a returning starter at first base.