The student news site of Linfield University

The Linfield Review

The student news site of Linfield University

The Linfield Review

The student news site of Linfield University

The Linfield Review

Hopes for a repeat championship motivate ’Cats

Stacey Barchenger

Managing editor

A trip to Virginia for the NCAA Division III World Series and the resulting championship rings circled with diamonds are motivation for the Linfield women’s softball team to work hard and repeat last year’s top finish.

Having to compete with the returning upperclassmen, this year’s freshmen, all 14 of them on the roster, are fighting hard for their positions on the field and in Linfield’s history books.

“I have to try and make them not look to the end and take it day by day,” head coach Jackson Vaughan said. “But after last year, it is hard not be excited.”

The ‘Cats have continuously climbed to the top of the Northwest Conference, taking first place for the past five years. Last season, the team defeated Washington University from St. Louis, Mo., 10-2, in May, and returned to Linfield with the national championship trophy in hand.

The 2008 preseason NWC coaches’ poll favored Linfield to win the conference again this season. Six of eight votes went to Linfield as the number one competitor.

The National Fastpitch Colleges Association placed Linfield as the No. 1 team in its Division III Top 25 coaches’ poll.

In addition to last year’s national title, the team received the George Pasero Team of the Year award at the 53rd annual Oregon Sports Awards in January on the Nike Campus in Portland. The designation is shared with two other Oregon teams. The trophy is still in transit.

Vaughan said the NWC puts up good competition every year, and teams from Whitworth University and Pacific University, the second and third team in the preseason coaches’ poll, could prove a challenge for the ‘Cats.

Five hour practices are hard work for the group, but the team works together as more than just players. They are friends trying to fill talent gaps left by alumnae Jena Loop and Lisa Smith, both of whom who Vaughan calls outstanding players.

“It’s hard,” junior pitcher Kendra Strahm said. “But, we have the rings and trophies to prove it is worth it.”

Strahm, who tore her ACL last season, said she may have started playing too early, but she trained hard during the fall and is ready to repeat last year’s victory.

The team spirit, attitude and morale are the key to keep such a large group together and happy, Vaughan said.

Linfield returns two All-American selections: first team selection senior Jenny Marshall from the infield at second base and third team selection for the outfield, senior Stephanie Rice. Marshall was also named to the NWC 06-07 season first team.

With experience under their belts, Marshall and Rice are two of five seniors who will lead the team in their final season. Vaughan said the five seniors are five of the best players the team has seen.

The other returning seniors are Erica Hancock, at third base, Amanda Attleberger at first base and shortstop Meredith Brunette, all of whom were named to last season’s all-NWC team.

Junior pitcher Brittany Miller was selected as the 2007 NWC Pitcher of the Year, and Marshall was the NWC Player of the Year.

The larger-than-usual class of freshmen will have to fill the void left by last year’s seniors, and they are putting up competition for the veterans, Vaughan said.

Vaughan is returning in his seventh year as head coach of Linfield’s team. He has been named all-NWC Coach of the Year four times, including last season.

Last year’s coaching staff, which includes Vaughan and assistant coaches Greg Herman, Ben Blosser and Lisa Allen, was awarded the NCAA Division III Coaching Staff of the Year award.

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