Aug. 28, 2003
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - The Women's Sports Foundation announced today USA Softball's Natasha Watley (Irvine, CA) as a finalist for the 2003 Sportswoman of the Year Award. Nominated among eight finalists in the team category, the winner will be chosen mid-September along with the winner from the individual category. They will then be honored at the 24th Annual Salute to Women in Sports Award Dinner on Monday, October 20, 2003 at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City.
A member of the 2003 USA Softball Women's National Team, Watley provided Team USA and her UCLA Bruins with a remarkable season. A senior shortstop for the Bruins, she batted .440 in the Women's College World Series as she led UCLA to NCAA Championship title. For the season, the team captain hit .481 with 10 home runs, scored 64 runs and stole 35 bases. This marked her third consecutive season with 100-plus hits, giving her 395 for her career, the third-best all-time in NCAA history. Her 252 career runs scored is fifth-best in NCAA history, while she ranks in the NCAA's top-10 in career stolen bases with 158. She finished her UCLA career with a .450 batting average, good for seventh-best in NCAA Division I history.
She was selected as the 2003 Pac-10 Player of the Year, and was an NFCA first-team All-American and first-team All-Pacific Region selection at shortstop for the fourth time in her career. She was also named All-Tournament at the Women's College World Series, a tournament where she had the game-tying RBI and scored the game-winning run in UCLA's second semifinal victory over Texas. With a triple in the NCAA Championship game, Watley recorded the 21st triple of her UCLA career, tying the school record and giving her second in Pac-10 history. The Bruins went on to defeat Cal, 1-0, in nine innings for UCLA's 10th softball National Championship.
On June 23, 2003, she received the Honda-Broderick Award, the top award given by the Collegiate Woman Sports Awards. American Honda Motor Co., Inc. sponsors the Awards Program. It has been 10 years since a softball player has won the Broderick as her USA Softball teammate and UCLA assistant coach Lisa Fernandez did in 1993. For Team USA, she led the team to the U.S. Cup gold medal and its fifth consecutive gold medal at the Pan American Games in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. For the summer she hit .432 with 35 hits, three home runs, and 13 RBI. She also led the team connecting on 11 stolen bases in 12 attempts.
Nominations for the individual and team Sportswoman of the Year Awards are made by national governing bodies, sports organizations, sports historians, select media, members of the Women's Sports Foundation advisory board and trustees and the general public. The Foundation's Awards Committee - made up of trustees and advisory board members - determines the finalists. Sportswoman of the Year candidates are then voted on by current members of the Foundation. The awards are presented to two outstanding athletes whose performances during the 12-month period of August 1, 2002, through July 31, 2003, have been exceptional. Criteria include championships won, records set and awards won. Accomplishments achieved before or after these dates are not taken into consideration.
Other finalists nominated for the team award include; Rachael Becker (Lacrosse, U.S.); Sofia Bekatorou & Emile Tsoulta (Sailing, Greek); Ellen Estes (Water Polo, U.S.); Danielle Fotopoulos (Soccer, U.S.); Lisa Leslie (Basketball, U.S.); Debbie McCormick (Curling, U.S.); Logan Tom (Volleyball, U.S.).
Up next Watley will participate in the USA Softball Olympic trials held Sept. 2-7 in at the ARCO Training Center in Chula Vista, CA. She will be among 46 players competing for spots on the USA Softball Women's National Team that will participate in the 2004 Olympics. An initial list of 18-players will be announced on Monday, September 8th. Since the official Olympic roster consists of only 15-players, three of the 18 players selected will be named as alternates at a later date.