Softball preview: The rookie, the veteran & the coach
With such a successful season last year, the Loras College softball team-43 has big plans for their upcoming season by overcoming all accomplishments set by the 23-13 team-42. The team lost three seniors, two of which were starters, but added an additional six first-years from the class of 2021. With five senior leaders this season, the Duhawks are on track of surpassing the achievements from their previous season. In 2017, the season ended in Decorah, IA, by elimination at the IIAC Tournament. Last year was the first time that the Duhawks made it to the tournament since 2011.
Although the loss in Decorah ended the seniors’ Dani Stromert and Cate Paulsen’s time as Duhawks, head coach Ashley Winter knew that the senior leaders had done their jobs in pushing the future softball team.
“Last year’s seniors were instrumental in getting the program to where it is today. We remember their legacy each day by living out the culture they instilled and created,” said Winter.
In her 10th year at Loras, Winter plans to implement the legacy left by the seniors of team-42 into the atmosphere for the new and returning Duhawks of the 2018 team because of how influential Paulsen and Stromert were during their time in the purple and gold uniforms.
The softball team began their training for the 2018 season on Jan. 14, and they have been practicing full-time to prepare for their first game that will be held in Minneapolis, MN, on March 2.
Winter is confident that she is “returning a strong core from the 2017 team.” Despite the loss of the 2017 seniors, there are five seniors on the 2018 team, the biggest senior class since 2011, and the team’s pre-season preparation is putting them in a good place for a successful 2018 season.
“(Their) perspectives will help us create a strong family bond where we appreciate and understand how everyone impacts team success,” said Winter.
For the spring, the Duhawks will look to three-year starter Bria Lenten.
“Truthfully, my favorite part about being on the Loras College softball team is my teammates and coaching staff,” Lenten said. “We go through everything together and not many people have bet on us. We are a relentless team with a lot of heart and skill. I love being able to express that, as well as see it in my teammates and coaches.”
Regarding new recruits, Haddie Andersen and Madison Franks have seemed to really shine in the pre-season.
“As a group, I love their work ethic and they have positively pushed our team as a whole. (Andersen and Franks) will bring a lot of speed, versatility and depth to our program,” said Winter.
Andersen is a 2017 graduate from West Liberty High School in West Liberty, IA, where she was honored with First-Team All-Conference as an infielder, and First-Team All-Muscatine Area. As a Duhawk, Andersen is anticipated to see the field often in her first season because of her strong sense of urgency and stand-out athleticism. Andersen quickly spotted the importance of learning the team’s mission and how to adapt to being on a new team with all new teammates.
“(I’m) focusing on learning and adapting to the new team and the different techniques and plays that they run,” said Anderson.
From Winter’s positivity and high expectations, Lenten’s experience, Andersen’s work ethic, and the rest of the softball team’s perseverance, team-43 is expected to earn themselves a competitive season. In Winter’s 10th year as a coach, Lenten is more than aware of Coach Winter’s importance to the Duhawks’ success in the past and future.
“She is not only our coach. She genuinely cares and looks out for us as people, and I could not thank her enough for the extra work she puts in for us. You can tell she is invested in us 100 percent, and come game day we know she believes in us,” said Lenten.
Together, the rookie, the veteran and the coach will band together to create a successful season. Their first double-header is set for March 2 against Crown College in Minneapolis, MN.