The team hopes to make another trip to the NCAA Tournament
Tim Castaneda | Sports Writer | xTIMBOxSLICEx
In the world of sports, when teams lose their trio of star players at the same time while coming off a highly successful season critics may say they are in a rebuilding stage, starting from scratch, preparing for the future, sacrificing a couple of seasons, or searching for talent.
But after losing last year’s team leaders in RBIs, home runs, ERA, and strike-outs, the UVU women’s softball team looks to improve upon the already strong program built by head coach Nikki Palmer.
The 2015 lady Wolverines return seven starters from last year’s Western Athletic Conference tournament championship team that made its first-ever appearance in the NCAA Division I Softball Tournament and hopes to return to the big dance.
“While creating this year’s schedule we obviously had our eye on a return to the NCAA Tournament. We are looking to build upon the foundation that was set last season,” said coach Palmer after revealing her team’s schedule in the fall. “This young team is very talented and we have a lot of confidence in their performance against these top-tiered teams. We are committed to the process and playing each game the Wolverine Softball way, which is why it is so important to have such a solid schedule.”
To start the season, the UVU softball team heads to Tempe, Ariz., for the Kajikawa Classic beginning Feb. 6 in which it is scheduled to face five opponents in two days, including some big-name schools such as Indiana, Virginia and Wisconsin.
Despite losing valuable team leaders, the lady Wolverines turn to some of their more experienced players to provide leadership on a team that believes to have the talent to take on top-tier softball programs across the nation.
Among players the lady Wolverines look to rely on for leadership in the upcoming season are Junior Morgan Smith, and Sophomores Brianna Gatlin and Brittney Vansway whose hitting ability may help them return to the NCAA Tournament.
Last year both Gatlin and Smith posted impressive numbers from the batter’s box to lead the team in two statistical categories. Gatlin led the team with a batting average of .293 and comes in as the leader on the active roster in RBIs as she finished with 29 last season. Smith enters the year coming off a season in which she finished first on the team with 47 hits and 29 runs.
While the home crowd only gets a chance to see its team play at Wolverine Field 14 times this season, the strength of teams the lady Wolverines are scheduled to host provides a reason for the fans to be excited.
The lady Wolverines play a doubleheader against in-state foe Weber State on March 18 in their home-opener and then face the Big 12 Conference’s Oklahoma State the next day on March 19. About three weeks later, the team returns home for its game against cross-town rival BYU on April 7.
“Our home stands this year, although few, will prove to be exciting for our team as well as our fans,” added Palmer. “We are always excited to host in-state rivals such as Weber State and BYU, but we are very much looking forward to having Oklahoma State out at our field to face a notoriously strong opponent in Wolverine country.”
With their tough schedule and talented players, the lady Wolverines have the tools for adding to an already strong program to repeat as WAC champions and give fans more reason to cheer this season.