Kayla Springer | Echo
After a mission trip to sunny Florida and the Dominican Republic this January, the softball team has returned unified and ready for a strong start to the 2016-17 season.
The team will look to the leadership of eight returning seniors in Morgan Allison, Jessie Britt, Maddie Cornell, Lauren Ehle, Anna Gunderson Alex Lovelace, Hannah Robbins and Briley Spencer. Newcomer Cassie Kuizin joins veteran Davis Carter to round out the junior class, followed by seven returning sophomores and a large group of 12 freshmen.
Despite a large roster, Ehle counts the closeness of the team as one of their greatest strengths.
"We all get along and care about each other as people, which I think can be rare on a team," Ehle said. "I think this team can do some really great things on the field, so I am excited to see what we are able to accomplish."
Comradery is often what differentiates contenders from pretenders. A tightly-knit team can often persevere through adversity even if its talent is not enough to get the job done.
Lovelace commented on the unique unity of such a large group.
"I think our biggest strength for this season is our depth and how much we all love each other," Lovelace said. "We have so many talented players who all want the best for each other. The hard part is picking the nine that get to be on the field."
Head coach Brad Bowser, who is entering his seventh season with the Trojans, understands that, while depth can be a blessing, it can also create animosity among the players. Bowser has helped the team focus on being good teammates during the off-season. In his words, the best teams always have a blend of veterans and talented young players who challenge each other.
Ehle largely attributes the close-knit nature of the group to their Florida-Dominican Republic mission trip over J-term. While on the trip, the team bonded through practices, community service and time spent playing various sports with local residents.
"This season we were lucky enough to go to warmer climates for J-term, so we were able to do a lot more field work than normal," Lovelace said.
With the team now back in Upland, the focus has shifted to their on-field preparation.
According to Bowser, the team has worked on taking care of the small things it takes to win games. His hope is that drilling details will translate into game play; not necessarily in wins and losses, but in doing things the right way.
"We have a great balance of players with different strengths, and we will try to get the most out of that strength," Bowser said.
The softball team will take the field for the first time this season in a four-game series at Union College starting today at 1 p.m. The first home game of the year is a doubleheader scheduled for Feb. 20 against IU-Southeast at 5 p.m.
"Photograph provided by Fayth Gloc"