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Franklin Regional graduates to play in softball exhibition against U.S. National Team

| Tuesday, June 3, 2014, 10:51 p.m.
Photo courtesy of St. Vincent athletics
St. Vincent's Ally Vrcek pitches during a game during the 2014 season.
Photo courtesy of Thiel athletics
Thiel second baseman Ashley Dolan prepares to throw to first base during a game during the 2014 season.

When Ashley Dolan received an invitation to play a softball exhibition alongside other Presidents' Athletic Conference seniors, she thought the opponent would be a group of All-Stars from another collegiate conference.

As it turns out, the PAC team will play higher competition than that.

Dolan and Ally Vrcek, both 2010 Franklin Regional graduates, are part of the PAC All-Star team that will play a doubleheader against the 2014 USA Softball Women's National Team at 6 p.m. July 3 at Hawley Field in Morgantown, W.Va.

“It's pretty cool, but it's kind of scary,” said Dolan, an all-conference second baseman at Thiel. “I feel like Team USA, that's legit.”

The members of the PAC team found out about a potential All-Star game in April. News of the opponent didn't come until recently.

“I felt honored, to be honest,” said Vrcek, a pitcher at St. Vincent College. “I think getting the opportunity to play at the level of this team we're playing is such a gift. I feel honored ... that we got this opportunity. And it's really cool that we're playing with the girls we've played against.”

In addition to Dolan and Vrcek, who were co-captains at Franklin Regional during their senior season, the PAC All-Star squad includes five other alumnae from WPIAL schools: Waynesburg's Carrie Maier (Greensburg Salem) and Jasmine Blackwell (Moon), St. Vincent's Lindsey Daniels (West Allegheny), Chatham's Jenn Stefano (Connellsville) and Washington & Jefferson's Kelsey Cunningham (Peters Township). Westminster's Kelsey Squelch, a Perry Traditional Academy graduate, will also play for the team.

“(Dolan and I) have remained friends since high school,” Vrcek said. “We were really close in high school, and we remained close. Every time we play each other, it's like, ‘Oh, you're going down,' and then we'd be friends after the game was over.

“It's tough to play your friends, but now the fact that I get to play on a team with her again and a few others is kind of neat. It's kind of bringing high school friends that I played against in college back together again.”

Dolan and Vrcek said they're also looking forward to getting another opportunity to play, even after graduating.

After spending her freshman season at Philadelphia University, Vrcek spent the past three seasons at St. Vincent, compiling a 15-13 overall record and 2.28 earned-run average. She was named to the All-PAC First Team in 2012 after leading the conference with a 1.30 ERA. In 2014, she finished 5-3 with a 3.57 ERA.

Dolan was named to the All-PAC Second Team in 2014, marking the third time she received all-conference honors. She was named to the All-PAC First Team in 2012, when she hit .364 with 27 runs batted in, and to the Second Team each of the past two seasons. In 2014, she batted .361 with 17 RBI.

“When you've been a part of something for 16 or 17 years and then it's all over, you don't really know what to do,” Dolan said. “But on our Senior Day, I still had that in the back of my mind (that) I still had another game, another All-Star Game. But it's going to be sad when this is over.”

Vrcek said she, Dolan and Daniels planned to get together in the coming weeks to keep their skills sharp in advance of the exhibition. The PAC team will report to Morgantown in early July, where it will hold practices and participate in clinics with the U.S. National Team.

“I don't want to count it down too fast because then it will be over before I know it,” Dolan said. “But (I'll) just enjoy the ride and see what happens.”

Vrcek said she was looking forward to the opportunity to pitching to the top hitters in the country. She said she looked up to the national team when she was younger.

“I'm nervous, but I'm not nervous to the point where I'm scared,” Vrcek said. “I feel like it's going to be a good test of my abilities to see what I'm capable of. I feel like it's going to be a great experience.”

Doug Gulasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at 412-388-5830, via email at dgulasy@tribweb.com or via Twitter @dgulasy_Trib.

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