Lisa Fernandez, a three-time Olympic champion and one of the best pitchers in the world, wasnt good enough to beat out Jennie Finch, Cat Osterman and Monica Abbott to make the U.S. National Teams final Olympic roster as the team readies for Beijing.
A few weeks ago, Fernandez admitted she was having a tough time getting her skills back, but was confident she could still play at a high level.
"I think I still have it," she said. "I think the advantage I have is my experience. I have the heart."
And she does. Ive followed Fernandezs career dating back to 1994 during her days at UCLA, where she led the Bruins to two NCAA championships. I watched her win a gold medal in the first Olympic Games that included the sport of softball. Every girl on my softball team had the Lisa Fernandez Louisville Slugger bat.
The truth is her vast amounts of experience and heart werent enough to earn her a spot in the Olympic rotation. When I interviewed Fernandez at the 2007 World Cup of Softball and asked her if she was planning on mounting a comeback, I believed she had a good chance of making it. Not only did she dominate opponents in the batters box with world-class style, but was a skilled third baseman and very strong hitter.
However, head coach Mike Candrea didnt think Fernandez got back to her usual dominating self after taking three years off to start a family.
"I was really hoping she would get close to where she was in 2004," said Candrea. " I wanted her to go out on top."
So while 37-year-old Fernandez has been left off the Olympic roster, she has been named a replacement player in the event someone gets injured. I don't think Candrea made a mistake but I sincerely wish that the Olympic roster allowed for one more player. I believe she is still the greatest softball player to ever play the game and appreciate the tremendous role she played in advancing the sport and giving female athletes someone to look up to.
Do you think Lisa Fernandez should have been included on the Olympic roster because of her versatility and experienceor does Team USA have the most solid squad possible now?
The 2008 USA Softball Olympic team roster:
Monica Abbott, Salinas, Calif. (University of Tennessee 07)
Laura Berg, Santa Fe Springs, Calif. (Graduate 98)
"Lori Chalupny is a fantastic midfielder," U.S. womens soccer team head coach Greg Ryan said. "First and foremost, her work rate both directions, defending and attacking--she went from 18 yard line to 18 yard line tonight....What she does to our midfield and our front line is she runs through the opponent's defense and gets in behind the other side of them and creates great attacking chances, scoring chances, for us. She really makes our midfield much more dynamic than we've been in the past."
It is that work ethic and dynamic dimension that helped Chalupny score the second-fastest goal in World Cup history, with a deflecting strike that found the back of the net just 55 seconds into the game. That proved to be the only scoring power the United States needed as the 1-0 win over Nigeria sent the team out of the toughest group in the tournament and on to the quarterfinals.
Even knowing the result immediately upon sitting down at my desk to start work yesterday morning, and seeing the highlight of the one and only goal of the match, I still tuned in late last night to watch much of the replay of the game to see how the team looked overall.
The Americans countered the Nigerians speed by moving the ball the more effectively than they had previously during the opening round--despite soggy conditions caused by the leading edge of a typhoon that forced todays games to be postponed.
Ill be cheering them on as they continue their attacking ways against England in a quarterfinal match-up on Saturday.
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