The Cleveland State women's softball team may have to wait a couple weeks for their home opener, but their first game of the season is only five days away.
Cleveland State softball head coach Katie Willingham and her coaching staff spent fall practice focusing on the process, with the head coach looking forward to seeing the hard work in practice pay off.
"Focusing on process was a major emphasis for each one of our players. The idea that process leads to a more successful game performance was promoted at each practice and how each day was designed," Willingham explained.
"I am anxious to coach a group of athletes who have bought into the philosophy of process as opposed to worrying and fretting about performance. I am looking forward to the success of each of our players as we begin the game schedule here in the spring."
The coach will find out quickly how well the fall training sessions paid off, as the Lady Cougars will play five games in two days.
The team opens its season with a trip to Georgia Highlands College in Rome, Ga., where they will compete in the Border Battle at Hamilton Crossings Park. In a doubleheader on Friday, Cleveland State takes on Spartanburg Methodist at noon and then East Georgia State College at 2 p.m. A busy weekend of softball continues Saturday, with the Lady Cougars facing Southern Union State Community College at 10 a.m., Georgia Highlands at noon and Andrew College at 4 p.m.
The coach is expecting many players to make an impact on the team this year, especially the pitching-catcher combination of sophomores Kaley Cagel and AJ Chancey.
"Kaley throws the ball in the low 60's and AJ has the athletic tools to be a difference maker defensively behind the plate and to be an offensive threat with her abilities to hit for power," Willingham said.
An all freshmen infield will also have the opportunity to shine this season.
"Our all freshman infield of Bre Dunsmore, Rachel Pierce, Grayson Brown and Macy Bryant are going to be exciting to watch. All four have elite athletic abilities and I have every expectation that each will have a major impact on the success of Cougar softball."
Willingham is also looking for returning outfielders Carly Frost and Rachael Goodson to build on their offensive success from last year.
"This will be an exciting team. It is a close-knit group of women that understands the process of competing," Willingham said. "We are a family atmosphere that believes in each other and I am confident we will be a surprise in our conference."
The Lady Cougars' first home game of the season will be a doubleheader against the University of the Cumberlands JV team on Feb. 18.
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