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Preview: New coach brings winning pedigree to NKU softball

Nicolette+Hayes+%286%29+and+the+NKU+softball+team+opened+its+season+over+the+weekend.
Nicolette Hayes (6) and the NKU softball team opened its season over the weekend.

Nicolette Hayes (6) and the NKU softball team opened its season over the weekend.

Kody Kahle/NKU Athletics

Kody Kahle/NKU Athletics

Nicolette Hayes (6) and the NKU softball team opened its season over the weekend.

Natalie Meyer, Contributor

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A new league isn’t the only change this season for the NKU softball team.

Kathryn Gleason was hired Aug. 3 as Northern Kentucky head coach. She spent the previous three seasons as Boston University head coach.

Gleason brings a winning pedigree to Northern Kentucky. She has appeared in the Women’s College World Series four times during her playing and coaching career.

However, it’s not all business at practice for Gleason and the Norse. At one of their practices, Gleason had them play musical chairs to start off because she believes it is fun and competitive.

That’s how she wants her players to play the game.

“How you do anything is how you do everything,” Gleason says. “You never know what is going to happen so you have to be prepared. Preparation means peace of mind.”

A typical practice involves her players being under pressure all the time. It is very high energy and fast paced. She said that the players have less than three seconds to act on a play in the game.

She wants the players to be able to draw upon their experiences in practice when situations happen during a game.

Dani Devlin, junior catcher for the softball team, said that practices are more intense and everyone plays in every position at practice.

“We will be able to throw people into different positions,” Devlin says. “Everyone is doing outfield drills and everyone is doing infield drills.”

Charlie Nolen, junior pitcher, is a transfer student from Kankakee Community College. She said not knowing people was the most challenging part of joining a new team. She also said that the coaching staff and her teammates have made her feel welcome, which has made the transition easier.

Gleason said it has been a very easy transition for her.

“It’s about the people you surround yourself with,” Gleason said. “From the coaches and athletic department to NKU staff altogether, everyone was very welcoming.”

Gleason said her philosophy is to help her players become better people off the field first, then worry about their performance on the field.

“First and foremost, I want the girls to be great people, then great students, then we will worry about being great players,” Gleason said.

The Norse players appreciate Gleason’s philosophy.

“Coach holds us to a really high standard.” Devlin said. “We are here for school.”

“She says you are a student-athlete, student comes first.” Nolen said  “She works us to be better not just as an athlete but as a student as well. Coach always pushes us to get better every day, she is always very positive and keeps our attitudes up.”

Gleason said they hope to surprise some of their new opponents.

“No one knows about us,” Gleason said. “No one knows our style of play. They are a blue collar group of kids and it is just a game at the end of the day.”

Softball Horizon League Preview

By William Borland

Oakland
Head Coach: Connie Miner
2015 Overall Record: 27-22
2015 Horizon League: 14-6

This Grizzlies won the Horizon League regular season and the postseason conference tournament last year, according to goldengrizzlies.com. They also garnered six of the nine first-place votes for the preseason rankings this season. The team is returning Sarah Hartley who last season set school records for home runs (10), runs scored (41) and total bases (112). The Grizzlies are also returning pitcher Haley Zemmer who, as a freshman, had a 5-5 record and a 2.74 ERA and 57 strikeouts last season.

Illinois-Chicago
Head Coach: Michelle Venturella
2015 Overall Record: 24-22
2015 Horizon League: 14-6

The Flames received the other three first-place votes in the preseason Horizon League poll. They return some of their key players from last year’s second place team, according to uicflames.com. Elain Heflin was named the pitcher of the year as she went 9-1 in conference play last season with a 2.54 overall ERA and a 1.91 ERA in conference play. UIC is also returning Laura Swan who had a .390 batting average in league play last season along with 46 hits, 29 RBIs and 4 home runs.

Wright State
Head Coach: Lynn Curylo
2015 Overall Record: 23-33
2015 Horizon League: 13-7

The Raiders will be led this upcoming season by senior 2nd team all-Horizon League Hanna Floyd who hit .310 while starting 44 games last season, according to wsuraiders.com. The team will also be led by Becca Peterson who led Wright State in home runs with eight and also hit .320. The Raiders also have a pair of sisters on their team in Kate and Libby Pfeffer. Kate plays catcher and Libby plays infield and led the Raiders with a .321 batting average and a .548 slugging percentage

Valparaiso
Head Coach: Kate Stake
2015 Overall Record: 16-35
2015 Horizon League: 9-11

The Crusaders had a disappointing season last year but they are returning a lot of their players and should have a better showing this upcoming season, according to valpoathletics.com. They were picked fourth in the Horizon League preseason poll. The team will heavily rely on Horizon League Co-Player of the year Kaitlyn Renieri. She had a .370 batting average, 33 RBI and led the conference in on-base percentage at .460. She is also on the preseason first team all-Horizon League. Valpo will also rely on Taylor Nadler and Stephanie Moreno who both played well in their freshman seasons and will look to carry the momentum to this season.

Cleveland State
Head Coach: Becky Norris
2015 Overall Record: 23-29
2015 Horizon League: 8-12

The Vikings will be led by Erica McNew who became just the fifth player in Cleveland State history to earn First Team All-conference in three separate seasons, according to csuvikings.com. She hit .350 with 37 RBI and 12 home runs. Pitcher Susan Knight will also be a major contributor. She went 9-13 last season while having a team-best 3.29 ERA and throwing 11 complete games.

Green Bay
Head Coach: Beth Spoehr
2015 Overall Record: 18-28
2015 Horizon League 9-11

The Phoenix were picked to finish sixth in the preseason Horizon League poll, but they do return some of the players from last year’s fourth-place team, according to greenbayphoenix.com. Sophomore Katelyn Huemmer was named second team, all-Horizon League and to the all-tournament team in the conference tournament. She started all 46 games for Green Bay and hit .348 with 47 hits, five doubles, two triples and five home runs. The team will miss the production of Hailey Mohrfield who graduated. She had a .444 batting average and led the team in hits with 71.

Youngstown State
Head Coach: Brian Campbell
2015 Overall Record: 18-31
2015 Horizon League: 7-13

The Penguins were picked to finish seventh place in the Horizon League, which is where they finished last season. They will be led by Miranda Castiglione who is a two-time first team all-conference selection, according to ysusports.com. She started all 48 games last year and had a batting average of .349 with 29 RBI and four home runs. Sarah Dowd will also be asked to continue putting up stats like she did last season when she hit for 11 home runs and 33 RBI.

Detroit
Head Coach: John Conway
2015 Overall Record: 10-40
2015 Horizon League: 6-14

The Titans will heavily rely on the bat of Christa McGahuey who led the team in RBI (22), total bases (78) and slugging percentage (.600), according to detroittitans.com. The Titans will need players like Savvy Ferstle and Arriana Acuna to pick up the slack on offense if they don’t want to finish in last place in the Horizon League for the second year in a row.

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Preview: New coach brings winning pedigree to NKU softball