By: Matthew Revels, Sports Editor
This weekend marks the beginning of the 2023 spring sports season, and Newman’s softball team is traveling to Lubbock, Texas, for the Lubbock Christian Tournament. The team will play four games split between Friday and Saturday: On Friday, the Jets face Eastern New Mexico University and Southern Nazarene University, and on Saturday, they take on Lubbock Christian University and Southwestern Oklahoma State University.
The team’s goal is to improve on its 18-30 overall record from the 2022 season, said head coach Andrea Gustafson.
“The hopes for this upcoming season are to keep moving this program forward in the right direction,” she said. “Obviously, we would always like things to move a little faster than they are, but when I look back to where we started three years ago and where we are today, it’s night and day as far as the culture goes and having a better mindset, team chemistry, and overall talent.”
Gustafson said she knows right where she wants the team to be at the end of the school year.
“We have a team goal of making the conference tournament,” she said. “I realize the softball season is a marathon, not a sprint, so my goal is to make sure that we continue to improve as the season goes along and to be playing our best softball come April.”
Gustafson also said she has confidence in her roster.
“I believe our strengths are going to be our team chemistry to start with. I feel if you have good kids who are good teammates, anything is possible and that’s where it all starts. After that, I think we’ll be a pretty good offensive team who should be capable of scoring some runs.”
The team has a mix of new and experienced players, she said, which should make the season interesting.
“I’m unsure of the weaknesses at this point although I know we do lack some experience as a whole. I still feel like we are a fairly young team but we’re also a young team that I think has some fire and desire to go out there and compete. All the new players mixed in with the returners has been fun to watch…they all want the same thing and that’s for team success,” said Gustafson.
As the season begins, Gustafson said, she’s counting on a few notable players.
“We are returning three infielders who made the all-conference team last year as freshmen and a sophomore in Laurie Cooke, Gianna Navarro, and Anissa Ramos. All three are very good defensive players that can make things happen offensively as well,” she said.
“We also return Megan Walz in the circle. She was pitching very well for us towards the end of the season last year and has really improved her overall mindset this year, and it’s showing on the field. I’m excited to watch her pitch this year.
“We return two starting catchers in Lauren Kwak and Sami Gutierrez, who both have the ability to have big bats. To see their growth behind the plate as they have gained more confidence is something I’m looking forward to. Another returning player I’m excited about is Madison Canez. She’s a kid who shows up every day and just plays hard no matter where she’s asked to play on the field. I love her mentality and work ethic”
PHOTO: Courtesy photo, Newman Athletics