Augustana softball is gearing up for its first season on the new Bowden Field with hopes to reach the national tournament.
The team is emphasizing having a competitive attitude going into their season.
“Our team mentality is to compete and always to go out and be aggressive, attack opponents, score first, try to put teams away right away,” coach Gretta Melsted said. “Our mentality is to go after people competitively.”
The team is favored to take the NSIC title, according to the preseason coach’s poll. However, Melsted said that she and the team are more focused on making the national tournament.
“Our focus is always to get into the NCAA tournament,” said Melsted. “Now, there are two ways to do that: win enough games so that you’re ranked high enough to go, or win the conference tournament. Our goal is always to win enough games so that there’s no question that we’re in the tournament.”
The Vikings played seven games in five days at a Missouri tournament, tallying five wins and two losses. The spring break tournament brought the team’s record to 7-6.
The team took the national championship title in 2019 and qualified again in 2021. Melsted said she hopes this year’s team will qualify again.
“Winning the national championship like we did in 2019, that’s just really difficult to do, but we want to put ourselves in a position to be able to make that run,” Melsted said.
Junior Kennedy Buckman said that the team’s work ethic both on and off the field has prepared them for the season.
“We hit three days a week, sometimes twice a day,” Buckman said. “Also, [we do] a lot of off-the-field chemistry work. We really try to make sure that we have really good relationships with teammates and make sure that we’re a family.”
Senior Gracey Brink said that the team’s focus right now is to practice with their games in mind.
“Especially this time of year, we’re really focusing on trying to make everything in practice more game-like,” Brink said.
Brink said that the team is also looking forward to getting onto the new field. This will likely happen sooner than normal because they won’t have to wait for the ground to thaw with the new turf, rather than the old dirt and grass.
“We’re all really excited,” Brink said. “Hopefully the snow gets off of [the field] and then we can play, but we’re set to start at the end of March, so it’ll be really fun.”
A good mix of returning and new players will make the season an interesting one, according to Melsted.
“We graduated this really great group of kids, and so this year’s team, they’re finding themselves,” said Melsted. “What’s fun about them is that they’re so talented, but they’re going to be a team that, at the end of the year, will be playing their best ball.”