Softball: Coaches award Cougars top preseason honors
The University of Houston softball team topped the preseason polls Wednesday after the Conference USA head coaches chose the Cougars as the preseason favorite for the third year in a row.
"We were confident we would be in that position this year," UH softball head coach Kyla Holas said. "We’ve been working since day one to be in that spot again."
The Cougars ended the 2007 season with a 20-4 finish in conference play and brought home the 2007 C-USA Softball Championship.
"Anytime a competitor tastes success, you’re going to want more of it," Holas said. "After winning the conference championship, it’s always more difficult to win it for the second time."
This season, the Cougars have eight of the nine starters from last year’s champion team returning.
"I want those veterans to do exactly what they did last year," Holas said. "I want them to focus on their weaknesses and work on improving them. I don’t want them to settle where they are."
Among the returning starters are senior right-handed pitcher Angel Shamblin, the 2007 C-USA Pitcher of the Year, and junior infielder Jessica Valis, the C-USA Player of the Year.
"They’re our captains this year," Holas said. "The girls that receive those awards tend to become the leaders."
Shamblin tries not to focus on her conference ranking, opting to direct her attention to the job at hand.
"I try to take it one day at a time," Shamblin said. "I don’t worry about it, and I focus on the things that we need to do as a team."
As far as personal goals go, Shamblin focuses mostly on what the team is striving for.
"We want to win the conference again, and we want to go to the World Series," she said.
Holas has the same goals for the Cougars. With a new group of talented freshmen coming in, she has high hopes for the 2008 season.
A few of the freshman should be making large contributions during the coming season, Holas said.
"(Freshman infielder) Jennifer Klinkert should find a spot in the infield," Holas said. "She also has a chance to become the heart of the lineup."
Along with Klinkert, freshman outfielder Casey Willow and freshman pitcher Baillie Lott are two newcomers to watch."We want to consistently put ourselves in that top spot," Holas said. "This is something we’ve been working on since we won the Conference Championship."
Holas reminds her team of the challenge to maintain the spot at the top of the list.
"This has been eight years in the making," Holas said. "It really is a testament to this program."