After last year’s Women’s College World Series elimination at the hands of Nebraska, the Michigan softball team knew it would have another chance at a quest for a championship. But that would have to wait – until now. This weekend, the Wolverines travel to Poway, Calif. for the Cambell/Cartier Classic to open the season and start their journey toward the ultimate goal.
This fresh start will not come without changes. With the graduation of All-American infielders Stefanie Volpe and Kelsey Kollen last year, coach Carol Hutchins has decided to start freshmen Tiffany Haas at second base and Grace Leutele at third. First baseman duties will be handeled by another new face, Lansing Community College transfer Jennifer Olds.
But Hutchins warns that these positions are not definite, and with a deep roster, some changes might have to be made in order to find out what is best for the team. The five games in California will help determine this.
“We’re simply trying to get acclimated,” Hutchins said. “We need game appearances. We’re still determining the lineup and going through many transitions.”
The Wolverines will face a few deep Californian teams rich with tradition and talent. No exception is No. 15 Fresno State, which the Wolverines will see in the first game this weekend.
“We’re ready to start playing, we really need to get out there,” Hutchins said. “There’s going to be some good teams.”
But Michigan is not too bothered by its opponents, as the team remains focused on improving itself from within.
“We’ll be worried about us,” Hutchins explained. “We need to play our game. We can’t control what our opponents do.”
Michigan’s No. 4 ranking is not a concern either.
“Right now, the record is 0-0,” Hutchins said. “We never focus on the ranking. We just try to get better. The ranking means nothing until the end of the year.”
As the theme for the team is improvement, so is the same for senior All-American pitcher Marissa Young, who is suffering from what Hutchins called “internal injuries.” This weekend, the Wolverines will have to rely much more on their star sophomore in the rotation, Nicole Motycka, who will see the majority of the action.
In addition, the team will have to make the change from indoor practice to outdoor competition. With all of these transitions, this weekend holds a lot in store for Michigan, as any season opener does.
“There is a huge task in front of us,” Hutchins said.