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Athlete Spotlight: Softball Senior Marissa Merchain

March 15, 2006

One of her favorite softball memories was on March 9, 2004 when the University of San Diego softball team took cross-town rival San Diego State University into extra innings, going on to win 2-0 for the first time in the history of the rivalry.

Senior Marissa Merchain grew up in La Mirada, Calif. surrounded by softball. She has been playing the sport since she was eight years old and was a varsity softball player all four years at La Mirada high school. Though her passion is softball, she was a two-sport athlete and lettered in Volleyball. Merchain earned several awards for Softball her junior and senior year of high school including Athlete of the Year and Scholar-Athlete as a senior, first team All-Suburban-League as a senior, League MVP twice, and team Offensive Player of the Year during her junior year.

It was an easy transition from the Matadors of La Mirada to the Toreros of University of San Diego. As a senior this year, Merchain is part of head coach Melissa McElvain's first recruiting class from 2002. Merchain recalls the difference in the softball facilities since her freshman year and how much they have improved.

"Coach [McElvain] has done so much for our team and our program," Merchain said. "Our field looks amazing, which helps improve our team. All the girls are hard workers and every one wants to be here."

She is amazed at how McElvain has evolved this team and the program to what it is today.

Merchain's goal this year, as it has been every year since she started playing softball, has been to improve upon the previous year. She treats her participation on the team similar to that of a job which must be taken seriously and strives to work hard for the team to reach one common goal. Off the field this team is really close to one another.

One example, from her perspective as a catcher, is the importance of communication with her pitchers and coaches. After each inning, Merchain, the pitcher, McElvain, and assistant coach Jennifer Bridges meet to discuss the inning defensively.

"After every inning we meet and discuss what went well and what needs improvement, and that is when we ask was it a good inning or should we change something or throw different pitches," Merchain explains. "The coaches help by asking questions when they see something that we can improve on."

Merchain went on to say that they evaluate each inning to see if there was any miscommunication among the players or if there was a bad pitch or a bad call. They discuss specific hitters to make sure they are on their game plan and playing the game the way they want it. The pitchers and Merchain always share input with each other in order to improve their game.

"That helps a lot just to keep everyone on the same track and make sure we all have our head in the game," Merchain said.

The senior certainly had her `a-game' when she hit a grand slam in the second game against cross-town rival UC San Diego last month scoring freshman Kelly Nesseth, freshman Katie Burk, and sophomore Celine Pujol. It was her first career home run as a Torero.

"I was just excited to hit actually," Merchain said. "I didn't think it was going out so I was running around the bases as fast as possible. I didn't even get to see it go over the fence!"

She chose USD because of its academic reputation, the beautiful campus and the low number of students in each class.

"I actually get to talk with my professors one-on-one," Merchain said. "My favorite professor is Dr. Jennifer Lento from my Introduction to Psychology course. All of [Dr. Lento's] classes are really interactive. She becomes very engaged in her lectures."

Merchain decided after taking Dr. Lento's class to change her major to Psychology and pursue a career in a related field. After graduation in May, she is strongly considering graduate school to study forensic science and a career in crime scene investigation.

Merchain and the Toreros return home this weekend for back-to-back double headers this week. On Thursday, March 16 at 2:00 p.m. the team will face Quinnipiac. On Friday, March 17 also at 2:00 p.m. San Diego will face Utah Valley State.