After coming up short twice in 2010, the University of Regina Cougars women’s softball club has only one goal for this year: win.
In order for the club to achieve success this season, it will take the hard work and dedication not only from the veteran players, but also the rookies.
“We graduated a lot of players last year,” said Cougars head coach Mike Smith. “We graduated our two main pitchers, so that will be the big replacement, but we do have three key-third-year starters coming back. All three of them are Regina girls: our catcher, Amanda Foraie; our third baseman, Kelsey Gullickson; and our centre fielder, Kyla Coxford.”
Veteran presence is important for any team and, with a number of players returning for another season, the added pressure of managing school and ball becomes slightly easier.
“We have about seven girls coming back from last year’s team, which really makes a difference,” Smith offered. “It especially helps when you get out of town to know what the weekends are like. It’s nice to have some people back who have gone through it already.”
Although the club has a solid foundation to build a championship team off of, the job on the mound is still up in the air.
“The big thing from last year is we did have two fourth-year pitchers and maybe one of the best pitchers in the conference,” replied Smith, who is in his seventh year with the team. “That is going to be the big thing this year – trying to replace those two pitchers. We have four, maybe five girls who can pitch, so we have lots of options.”
With new players arriving to town nearly everyday, Smith can already get a sense of what this year’s team will look like.
“I think we will be quicker this year,” Smith said. “We are younger, but we will be quicker both in the defence and on the bases, so we will have to use that to our advantage.”
The club kicked off their regular season in Calgary last weekend, where they went 4-1-1 and is to host six teams at home Saturday and Sunday.
“In our opening weekend, we will have three college teams here and three Canadian teams here – probably the three best Canadian teams,” Smith said.
Regina is to play six games each week during September and will host the conference playoffs beginning the first week of October.
“There are two key things happening this year: one is our conference playoffs, which we host this year for the first time ever, and then two weeks later we are in Houston, Tex, where we will finish the year.”
Although teams from the United States are notoriously tough competition, the women’s softball club is up to the challenge.
“I think our goal for the tournament is really to just be competitive,” Smith said. “In Texas, we are going to be playing some very strong U.S. teams.”
After finishing second last year at both the conference finals and nationals to the University of Saskatchewan Huskies, the team has revenge on its minds.
"I don’t really know about the wins and losses, but our goal for our league is always the same: we want to win it,” Smith said.
Smith believes even though the softball team is technically not part of athletics, it represents one of the school’s four highly competitive clubs, also mentioning curling, rowing and cheerleading, respectively.
“We are really like any other Cougar team on campus. We play a highly competitive game with a highly competitive schedule and we have girls on the team who have been playing their whole life just like in basketball or hockey,” noted Smith. “However, there are some big differences. We don’t get scholarship money, so our team self-funds and we do what we do and attract players without having that scholarship fund.
“We have been around long enough now where we are starting to attract better players, so that is making our team stronger.”
Similar to other sports teams at the University of Regina, many of the players on the women’s softball team are not from Regina.
“We get rural Saskatchewan kids – local kids who are coming back from playing in the States and kids who don’t have the opportunity to play softball in their area,” Smith said. “To have a club softball team at the U of R which is attracting girls from out of province is pretty amazing.”