By Andrew Preston
The Lady Trojans softball team is looking to begin the 2016-17 season the same way as their previous campaign—with a Great Midwest Athletic Conference (G-MAC) championship.
“Last year was pretty tough when we lost. The last two years, we’ve made the NCAA regional finals since we’ve been eligible. Both years, our team was so upset that we lost because we saw what was in reach,” said head coach, Ben Tyree. “I think last year our team was good enough to make the College World Series, and that was the disappointing part about losing.”
The Lady Trojans won the G-MAC championship last year, 4-0 over Cedarville. They headed to the Midwest regional tournament before ultimately being defeated by Grand Valley State.
The Lady Trojans were led last season by stars Haley Fagan and Ansley Brantley.
“Last year, we had two exceptional athletes. Haley Fagan was one of the top pitchers in the nation, losing her was a big loss,” said Tyree. “Ansley Brantley led the nation in runs. She was always getting on base and scoring. Those are two big holes to fill.”
Last season, the team lost four seniors, but Tyree is optimistic about his group of seniors this season.
“Alex Richardson and Kaitlin Crumpler are two of our big leaders. They’ve been here for four years and started all four years. They’ve been a part of everything we’ve done through the transition to NCAA Division-II,” said Tyree.
The Lady Trojans have several key returning players on both sides of the ball, something Tyree thinks will benefit his team.
“I believe we have 11 returning players. Although we have a young team, a lot of our girls have experience. Having a young team at a lot of places would be a killer, but here it may be our strength,” said Tyree.
With 11 returning players, Tyree is also confident in his group of freshman who look to bring talent to the field themselves.
“This year, I have the most athletic team since I’ve been here,” said Tyree. “We have by far the most depth since I’ve been here. We are two deep at every position.”
With athleticism and depth an intangible for his squad, Tyree noted three keys to his team’s success this season.
“Speed, defense, and experience,” said Tyree.
With the speed, defense, and experience on the Lady Trojans roster, the team is looking to win the G-MAC championship for a record fifth straight year.
“We want to 5-peat the G-MAC, something that’s never been done before,” said junior, Bailey Alexander.
In fact, the Lady Trojans are the only team since the inception of the G-MAC in 2012-13 to win the post-season crown. But their season shouldn’t end there, according to Alexander.
“After that, we want to get back to region and win again,” said Alexander.
Before losing to Grand Valley State, the Lady Trojans made it all the way to Midwest Regional Final game, only a few games from competing in the NCAA D-II World Series.
The Lady Trojans season is scheduled to begin Feb. 10 against Eckerd College.