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Softball team has high expectations

March 5, 2009

The UW-River Falls women’s softball season is up and running with its first games March 3 against Augsburg College and March 5 against St. Thomas University.

The Falcons had an exceptional season last year coming within one game of taking the conference title and becoming the first team in WIAC playoff history to beat the No. 1, 2, 3 and 4 seeded teams at the conference tournament.

After finishing out last year’s season with a record of 8-8 in the WIAC and 29-13 overall, the Falcons got its single best season win total in Falcon history and finished fifth in the conference.

Head Coach Jody Gabriel said there were three main reasons for the success of last year’s team.

“We were successful because of the six seniors, strong leadership and hard work,” Gabriel said.

The six seniors who graduated were Emily Howlett, Brittany Rathbun, Amanda Peters, Ashley James and Ashley Bertrand.

Howlett, the starting third baseman last season, will be a definite loss to the Falcons this season. Last year she was voted the team’s most valuable player and offensive player of the year. She was also honored with being named to the first All-WIAC team, the first NFCA Great Lakes Region team and became the first Falcon to be named the WIAC Position Player of the Year.  Howlett led the WIAC in batting average, total bases, slugging percentage, doubles, RBI and hits, according to the UWRF athletics Web site.

After the loss of six seniors at the end of last season, the Falcons now face a tough road ahead as 11 of its 18 players are freshmen. The biggest challenge for the team this year will be getting the new recruits focused on what Falcon softball is, Gabriel said. 

Even though there are many new recruits, Gabriel said she is confident that this year’s team has the ability to do just as well as last years.

“This group is just as talented, but they are very young,” Gabriel said. “It may take them a little longer to gel, but they will be just as successful.”

Senior Mindy Rudiger said she is also excited about the potential of this year’s team.

“We have a ton of talent and lots of opportunity,” Rudiger said “We just got to bring it all together.”

Overall Gabriel has high expectations for this year’s team.

“We plan to finish at the top of the conference,” Gabriel said.

The Falcons will be traveling to Kissimmee, Fla. to participate in the Rebel Spring Games over spring break. After losing their first game in the Rebel Spring Games last year, the Falcons went on a 15 game winning streak, setting a new school record for straight wins.

After returning home from spring break, the Falcons will play a single game against Bethel University and then compete in the Augustana Tournament in Moline, Ill. Besides matches against Hamline and St. Maryƕs University, the Falcons will compete in conference games for the remainder of the season.