Softball ready to kick season off in Louisiana
GREELEY, Colo. -- The end of winter is coming quickly, but for Northern Colorado softball coach Mark Montgomery, spring time can't get here fast enough.
Montgomery has good reason to be excited as his Bears prepare to open up the season Thursday on what is opening day for all NCAA softball squads.
To kick off the season, Northern Colorado will get to escape the frigid temperatures of Greeley and spend the season's first weekend in Hammond, La. to play in the Lion Classic. But before the tournament starts on Friday, the Bears travel to Baton Rouge, La. on opening day to play Southern University.
With 13 new faces entering his program, Montgomery's excitement stems from the almost limitless potential his new squad holds. With the addition of 11 freshmen and two junior-college transfers, the Bears have more talent and depth than perhaps ever in the history of the program.
"We now have several people at each position," Montgomery says. "That builds more competition during practice and also allows you to absorb an injury.
"Along with our new depth comes a new level of talent that is different than last year. Does that necessarily translate to wins and losses? I don't think it does, but it's definitely nice to go into a game knowing you have good bats throughout the entire lineup, not just some of it."
The future is bright for Montgomery after finishing his first season at the helm of the Bears' program with a 17-35 overall record, but a 13-7 mark in Pacific Coast Softball Conference play. He helped lead the team to a second-place finish in the Mountain Division and opened up conference play with eight straight wins.
This season the Bears, despite all the new faces, come into the year picked second in the Mountain Division in the PCSC preseason coaches' poll.
"Our job last year was to change the culture of this program. We had to understand what it meant to work hard and do the little things, and I think we did that. Now the kids coming in have to learn the system and buy into how we do things day-in and day-out.
"Luckily, I think we have some tremendous upper-class leadership that allows the culture we created last year to be placed upon this year's new players."
Some of that leadership Montgomery talks about includes seniors Erin Wilkinson and Erin Geddis and junior Melanie Buol. All three players were named to All-PCSC Mountain Division squads with both Geddis and Buol earning second-team recognition while Wilkinson earned honorable mention.
This year those three, along with senior Alex Neely, will be expected to lead the team while Montgomery's many young players learn what it takes to play Division I softball.
While he knows there will be some speed bumps along the way, with the season just a few days off, Montgomery can't wait to see what his youngsters are made of.