Wildcats begin season with young yet talented players

Kaelia Neal, Sports Editor

The Linfield softball team had an impressive end to their 2015 season by unexpectedly jumping from a fourth-place finish in the Northwest Conference to a third place finish in the NCAA Division III playoff field.

This season, the Lady ’Cats hope to have the same success.

“Our goal is to work hard and improve every day of the season to see how good of a team we can become. We hope that leads to a NWC Championship and berth to the NCAA Playoffs in May,” Coach Jackson Vaughan said.

“Every year we always sit down and talk about our team goals. The one that kind of always goes unsaid is to win a national championship. That’s one of our main team goals every year,” Danielle Duman, ’17, said.

“We then start to look at how we are going to get there; win the league, win the NWC tournament, win regionals, super regionals and then nationals keeping in mind that we have to take it one game at a time and take no opponent for granted,” Duman said.

Duman, who plays first base, was key for the Wildcats’ success in the 2015 season, even though she was just a sophomore.

“From a personal standpoint I want to continue working to be the best I can be for the team. That means continuing to work on getting better both offensively and defensively and executing in game situations to help the team to win games this upcoming season,” Duman said.

Coach Vaughan said a setback for the team is “overcoming the loss of graduated pitcher, Montana McNealy, who was the NWC Pitcher of the Year last season.”

She was essential to Linfield’s success, especially at the national championships.

Even though the Wildcats are losing one of their key players, there are many other athletes who will help the team have another successful season.

“I believe that everyone is a key player on the team. It takes teamwork to make the dream work,” Duman said.

“Without each and every member on our team we would not be able to be push each other to be the best team we can be. As a team we have a lot of potential to do a lot of great things this year,” Duman said.

The team is large and young. There are 31 players on the roster, and there are only three seniors among that list.

Coach Vaughan said that he “could potentially start three freshman at times this season, and he “will have new starters in the majority of our outfield positions.”

The ’Cats open their season by traveling south to play Cal Lutheran at noon on Saturday in Thousand Oaks, California.

“We want to compete with the best of the best so we can be one of the best. This all starts with our mentality in practices,” Duman said.

“If we want to achieve the high goals we set for ourselves then we have to push ourselves. We have to make adjustments and play together as one,” she said.