The energy the Marion girls bring to the softball field will be a key strength for the Warriors this season, according to first-year coach Jennifer Felvus.
It’s an energy that leads to spirit and teamwork as the team seeks to improve on last season’s 6-14 record.
“They are a team, undoubtedly, and that’s probably the biggest strength I could ask for,” she said. “As a team, the energy they bring is just really positive and affirming and ready to go.
“Beyond that, overall I would have to say it is the most determined and driven team that I have coached.”
Felvus expects the five returning seniors—Andrea Nordquist, JayDee Schafers, Montanna Percell, Balee Shiplet and Chelsea Voth—to anchor the team, both in leadership and skill.
“We’ve got a good group of seniors, so I really expect to see a lot out of all them,” she said.
Pitching and catching
Leading Marion on the mound—and also offensively—will be returning pitcher Megan Richmond, a junior.
“She’s very competitive and driven, which is important in that position,” Felvus said. “And she just has worked really hard to be there.”
Also expected to contribute are Montanna Percell and Chelsea Voth.
“All three of those girls—Megan, Chelsea, Montanna—offer different styles, different deliveries that give them each their own strengths,” Felvus said.
Stepping in as needed will be junior Megan Davies and freshmen Shyla Harris and Kayla Kroupa.
Returning at catcher is JayDee Schafers.
“Obviously, JayDee brings experience to the table and knowledge of the pitchers, having caught for Megan in the past,” Felvus said. “That teamwork brings us a great deal.”
Two newcomers complete the catching staff: sophomore Sam Davies and freshman Reann Hamm.
“Sam is new to catching but learning very quickly,” Felvus said. “(She’s) very eager; she knows the game very well.
“Reann is a real go-getter and very eager to make herself better, so I expect to see a lot out of her this year,” Felvus said. “I’m hoping to split some time up in that position.
“It’s nice to have three capable catchers.”
Four returning players will anchor the infield: Montanna Percell (first base), Andrea Nordquist (second), Chelsea Voth (shortstop) and Sam Davies (third).
“I’m actually very blessed to be having some very difficult decisions on the infield right now,” Felvus said. “And I asked them for that when we started.
“The first day of practice I said, ‘OK, I need you to do everything you can to make the nine players I put on the field the hardest decision I’ve ever made.’ And that’s what they’ve done.”
Felvus expressed excitement at the possibilities she has for the outfield.
Senior Balee Shiplet returns for the team. Also expected to be a key contributor is freshman Bailey Robson.
“(Bailey) is excited about outfield, and she’s already demonstrated great instinct and willingness and strength out there, and I’m really excited to see what she can do next to returner Balee Shiplet,” Felvus said. “Again, I’m blessed with difficult decisions on how I’ll finish that out, and I only have two weeks to decide.”
Marion, with 21 players on the roster, welcomes a large incoming class of freshmen, making experience one of the Warriors’ biggest challenges this season.
“If I have to list a weakness, I would probably say that we may lack in experience,” Felvus said. “Some teams are bringing in girls that have played softball forever, traveling ball and everything, and while some of our girls have touched on that, it isn’t the overwhelming majority.
“So experience is probably the weakness that is out there, but completely overcome-able.”
It will take time, Felvus said, for the younger players to develop their game.
“With some of the younger players, we have some mental game challenges to overcome, and some confidence, which will come with time,” Felvus said. “Obviously their teammates being as positive and affirming as they are is a good start, but we do have a lot of capable younger players.”
Felvus broke it down even further: “Our greatest weakness is the desire to play safe. If anything gets us, it’ll be the desire to play safe.”
Felvus, as a first-year coach, was cautious about predicting the Warriors’ success in the league.
“The realist part of me would say somewhere in the middle,” she said. “But the dreamer part of me says we’re going for broke—we’ll be right up at the top, and we could be. And that’s just how hard the girls are working.”
Felvus envisions great things this season.
“I’m just really excited for the season,” she said. “The girls are too, and I think they have a lot to bring to the table. I’m just really excited to see the culmination.
“I think we’ll bring competition to every field.”
The Warriors were scheduled to open play against Herington at home Tuesday and will travel to Trinity April 2.