Success of 2006 Softball May Be Hard To Recapture In ’07

In their inaugural season, the Catamount softball team exceeded all expectations and clinched the Southern Conference’s Regular Season Championship. The Catamounts, unfortunately, were eliminated in the first round of the Southern Conference Tournament ending their dreams of getting to the NCAA Tournament. Now, one year later the Catamounts are looking to prove that last season was no fluke by doing it all over again. However, it might be a little bit tough for the Cats to recapture that glory of last season. One major setback that the Catamounts might suffer from this season is the loss of last season’s head coach Megan Smith. On September 6, 2006 Smith resigned as Catamount head coach to take an assistant coaching job at LSU. After guiding the squad to the well-earned success of 2006, Athletic Director Chip Smith worked diligently to bring a replacement worthy of coaching the defending regular season Conference Champs. 23 days later the Catamount faithful were introduced to former Virginia Tech assistant coach Christine Hornak, who took the reins as the new Catamount head coach. Rebuilding a team that Megan Smith built might be a tough transition for Hornak, who is taking the helm as head coach for the first time ever in her career. Another setback is the youth on the team. This season the Catamount softball program consists of two seniors in Nikki Bost and Ashley Adams; two juniors in Savannah Filley and Jamie Swank; seven sophomores; and five freshmen. However, while the youth on the squad could be a major setback for them this season, it could also help them in the long run. Remember, last season’s success was built on a young team. So many of the returning players know what it takes to win and it could help spark the new freshman this season as well. With nearly every single player returning from last season’s team, the 2006 success could very well be repeated in 2007. All six of the players named to last season’s All-SoCon Team are back this year poised to repeat history. The Catamounts will be looking towards defending SoCon Freshman of the Year Jenny Jackson, and to defending SoCon Pitcher of the Year Mendy McKenzie for leadership this season. Also returning from last year’s All-SoCon squad are Adams, Allyson McCubbins, Heather Pritchard, and Filley. With their experience and the success they encountered in the softball team’s first season, winning might just be natural to them which is a very good thing for the Catamounts. With this being a new season though, the Catamounts need to move on from all the glory they had during their storybook season of 2006. They need to start focusing on how to continue that success in the 2007 season. Currently, the youth-filled Catamounts have started their sophomore season off on a slow start, losing their first five games to Tennessee State, Lipscomb and South Carolina. Lipscomb and Tennessee State swept the Cats in Nashville, and the Gamecocks beat them in Columbia. Last season’s team won four of their first five games and ended with a 41&18 overall record. This season’s team has not played up to the par of last year’s squad with McKenzie struggling from the mound, as well as the team struggling at the plate; the Cats are in need of some wins before the Southern Conference season begins. The team is currently suffering through its longest losing streak in the program’s short history. Maybe their home opener on February 21 will be just what the Cats need to bounce back from their slow start and get back on the same track they were on last season. The home opener on the 21st of February is a double header against Winston Salem State, While building on last year’s success might be tough for Hornak and company, the returning talent has experienced winning before and they know that they can do it again. The entire student body, and the entire Catamount community at Western Carolina University is behind the Catamounts Softball team and rooting for them every step of the way as they look to regain the success accumulated in 2006.