Softball team motivated by last season

The UW-Whitewater softball team will begin its season this week in Florida, where the team will play 12 games in six days.
The ’Hawks’ junior catcher Emily Epifanio said the team’s spring break trip to Clermont, Fla., is really more of a business trip than a vacation. The team has double headers on six out of the seven days.

“We play over a fourth of our season on spring break, so that’s really important,” Epifanio said. “We really can’t afford to start slowly.”

The Warhawks finished last season with a 28-12 record, but  Epifanio said the ’Hawks were disappointed with how they finished.
The ’Hawks finished 11-5 in the regular season in the WIAC last year. However, the team went 0-2 in the WIAC Tournament, then 2-2 at its NCAA Regional.

“We thought we had a pretty special team last year,” Epifanio said, “So we were obviously pretty disappointed after losing at regionals.”

Epifanio said the way last season ended has provided motivation for her and the ’Hawks returning to the diamond for this year’s team.
Although the ’Hawks graduated a strong class last year, including All-American pitcher Jessica Stang, Epifanio said the team’s expectations are just as high for this season.

Epifanio was an All-American last year, leading the ’Hawks with nine home runs and a .691 slugging percentage.
Junior pitcher Katie Boyle will step into Stang’s starting role. Boyle had a 2.07 ERA last year and a 5-4 record.

“Katie pitched very well for us last year, but it seemed that whenever she was in there we struggled scoring runs,” head coach Brenda Volk said.

Epifanio said the team has so much talent this year that some positions are still undecided. Volk recruited a group of freshmen, some of whom might make an immediate impact on the program.

“We have a bunch of newcomers and so much talent all around,” Volk said. “I really think we’ll be tweaking our lineup all season long.”

The ’Hawks are ranked 17th nationally in the preseason poll, but Epifanio said that doesn’t mean much to the team.

“It’s nice to see that we have a ranking, but we haven’t proven anything until we start playing,” she said.

The ’Hawks first game is at 3 p.m. Friday in Florida against Lawrence University.
After the team returns from spring break, they will take on Carroll University in their first home game, at 3 p.m. on April 3 at Van Steenderen Field.