The University’s women’s softball team has high expectations this season.
Coming off a Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference championship season, the Lady Rattlers said they plan to build on their success.
Despite losing some key players to graduation, team members said they do not expect a drop-off from last season.
Team captain Alicia Mitchell said the team is enjoying its preseason workouts.
“This year we have personal trainers, and we are doing more physical work than we have done in the past,” Mitchell said. “We set our goals high, and we are more focused.”
This year marks the first time in the history of Veronica Wiggins’ coaching tenure that she did not select any seniors as team captains. They are juniors Alicia Mitchell and Alacia Strafford and sophomore Ashley Smith.
Wiggins said she is expecting the young crop to step up this season. She said although the new captains are not seniors, they exhibit good leadership qualities.
“They have very good work ethics, knowledge of the game, and they get along with everybody,” Wiggins said.
The team will be without three key players from last year’s squad, including all-conference pitcher Danielle Brown and infielder Kelley Gordon.
Despite these losses, Wiggins said the Lady Rattler softball team plans to be championship contenders because of its experienced pitchers, hard work ethic and team chemistry.
Mitchell, a pitcher, said she has improved since last year.
“I have tried to make the transition from closing pitcher to starting pitcher so I can do my job on the field,” Mitchell said. “I have also been working on my hitting, conditioning and anything else I can do to get better.”
Wiggins said improving fundamentals is something at which the team can be better. In practice, the Lady Rattlers are going back to the basics.
“Once we have our fundamentals down, then we go to our strategy,” Wiggins said.
Wiggins also emphasized the importance of chemistry as one of the strong points of team members, although they are fairly young.
Sophomore Alesha Wells said the team as a whole has set goals, and so has each player.
“That drives us to work harder at practice,” Wells said. “We want to improve our batting averages. Another goal we want to reach is to do good academically as well.”
“Newcomers to the team have already made an impact,” Wells said.
“The freshmen are really hungry, and we are feeding them. We are trying to help them build in the process,”she said.
Wells said she believes her team can be successful.
“We are young, but we have a lot of heart,” Wells said. “Girls are willing to learn and take constructive criticism and learn from it.”
Wiggins said the sky is the limit for her softball team.
“We are winning the world series!” she said. “We are on a mission to always go higher than the year before.”