“We’re replacing them with kids that, we’re hoping, can step right up,” interim Head Coach Rachel Hartgrove said. “I expect us to be in the hunt. I expect us to be competing very well. This should be the best team we’ve ever had.”
Coach Hartgrove is no stranger to being the best. As a player she earned Division I All-Independent First Team honors three straight years at UVU and was recognized as the Division I Independent player of the year in 2005. Stating that this team should be the Wolverines’ best softball team ever is bold, and coach Hartgrove believes her team can support her prediction.
“The easy part here is that I have a great group of kids. They do everything I ask, and they’ve been awesome. The transition, as difficult as it is, those kids have made it as simple as it could be,” Hartgrove said regarding the move from top assistant to interim head coach.
Despite the confidence and talent of the Wolverine softball team, the changes this year will bring new challenges. UVU softball will join the West Coast Conference in the 2014 season and will compete against many of their future conference mates this spring within the Pacific Coast Softball Conference before it disbands at the end of the season. The Wolverines will have the opportunity in the WCC to compete against programs like BYU and Pacific that have proven they can compete with the best in the country. The WCC champion will gain an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
“Between BYU and [Pacific], they’re tourney-bound almost every single year, so that toughens up the conference,” Hartgrove said. “I loved everyone being in the WAC [but] playing here and playing during the years where we didn’t have an automatic bid or anything, it stunk.”
In addition to a new head coach and membership in the WCC, the Wolverines also bolstered its roster less than a month before the season starts. Jazmyne Cortinas, who had originally committed to Cal State Northridge, joins the team to improve the depth at catcher.
“My new assistant, Josh Musselman, knew her summer coach from the Cal Jets,” Hartgrove said. “From the research I did she’s going to be great behind the plate with a stellar arm, which is something I need, so I’m excited for that.”
Cortinas will compete with the incumbent starter Jamie North for playing time behind the plate. While coach Hartgrove was adamant that North is the starter and would be in the lineup regardless, she did not hesitate to reiterate her team’s number-one goal.
“[North] knows where she stands. Se knows it’s her spot still to lose. If Jazmyne steps up, that’s how it is. We’re here to win, not to make sure everyone’s feelings are ok,” Hartgrove said.
The goal of this team is clear: win the PCSC and the region. Accomplishing such a feat would make Coach Hartgtove’s prediction a reality.