Cardinals look to take next step
A new season and a new coach for SVSU softball bring high expectations
February 18, 2008 —
This year's Cardinals softball team has set the bar high for themselves.
"I expect our team to go even further than we did last year," junior pitcher and first-baseman Stacy Kraatz said. "There is no doubt in my mind that we will have a winning season, and with all the returning players and our new girls, I believe our team has the potential to go all the way."
First year head coach Everett Roper is the program's third skipper in as many years, coming from Thomas More College in Kentucky. In the 10 seasons he spent there, he built the Saints into a national power. During the 2006 campaign, Roper's team advanced to the NCAA tournament for the second straight season, and he was named The Pennsylvania Athletic coach of the year.
After hired to take over as head softball coach, Roper knew he had a lot of work to do.
"The biggest thing for me has been gaining the trust of these girls that are here now," Roper said. "It's really important for me to get recruits in, to build a rapport in the community and in the state of Michigan that we're running a great program here."
Last year's club finished the season with a 25-20 record overall, going 9-11 in the GLIAC, good for sixth in the conference. Sophomore centerfielder Angela Kaiser predicts a much better ending to the upcoming season.
"We expect to get first or second place in the conference definitely," Kaiser said. "Our goal is to win it and I think our coach is putting us through the competitive practices that we need to get there."
The Cardinals will have the experience edge, with a good portion of last season's lineup returning. Sophomore pitcher Kari Bowlby joins Kraatz as starting pitchers returning from last year.
Additionally, the Cards are returning junior catcher and outfielder Jessica Anhel, who, Roper says, is going to play a large leadership role for an already experienced team.
Offensively, the team is returning its homerun leader from a season ago, junior shortstop Nicole Fick. Fick managed to hit six homeruns and 21 RBI, which was good enough for second best on the team.
All the experience gained during last year could be the difference maker this year, especially with the tough competition that the Cardinals will face, not only in the GLIAC, but in non-conference games as well. This weekend the Cardinals will see how they stack up against top competition as they travel to Austin, Texas to take on two top 50 programs in the nation. After that, they travel to Orlando to take on the country's top-ranked program, SIU Edwardsville.
The Cards won't catch a break once the GLIAC season starts, as they'll have to deal with top 25 nationally ranked teams Wayne State, Ferris State, and Grand Valley State.
Despite the tough schedule, Roper doesn't see any reason why his team won't be competing for one of the top spots at the end of the season.
"We have a very competitive conference, even a team such as Northwood could be in it until the end. Saying that, there's no reason why we shouldn't compete to be in one of the top spots in the conference," Roper said.
After looking at the schedule, Kaiser, Kraatz, and Roper were all asked which team they wanted to beat more than any other. While Roper, who keep in mind is new to the school, took a little longer to answer, Kraatz and Kaiser answered emphatically, "Grand Valley!"