Photo: Senior Rilee Vest will be an offensive leader for the 2011 Lady Knights softball team. Vest will also see more time behind the plate, catching for a pitching staff that head coach Brian Willis hopes will find some consistency. File Photo
by Mike Slodki
KANELAND—Looks like the younger core of softball players will get a chance to get some more playing time in 2011.
Kaneland looks to avenge a regional championship loss to Sycamore and get back to the heights of a 20-11 season of a year ago.
They’ll have to replace three valuable seniors of a year ago, and 13 wins from former pitcher Delani Vest.
“We are still young, and only two seniors here,” said second-year coach Brian Willis. “This team will be a lot like last year’s team. Hopefully somebody will surprise with pitching. Offensively, we’ll be fine, defensively we’re a work in progress.”
Luckily, the two seniors on the team are noted contributors: Rilee Vest and Andrea Potts, whom Willis regarded as quality catchers who supply offense.
“We have pitchers that can throw the ball well, but we are looking for some consistency,” Willis said.
In the mix for the pitchers’ circle is junior Alexis Villarreal, junior Katy Dudzinski and sophomore Taylor Velazquez.
McKinzie Mangers plays the third baseman role as a junior, highly touted sophomore Allyson O’Herron is at shortstop, freshman Allison Miller debuts at second, and Potts at first.
The outfield shows the returning Samantha Hansen, a junior, while freshman Lanie Callaghan takes the centerfield slot and junior Brittney Miller in right.
Shoring up the infield is junior Sarah Kitz and freshman Lexi Roach.
Willis mentioned Miller and Hansen as players that eased into varsity roles last year and will make the most of their opportunities in 2011.
Kaneland hopes the lineup comes together in the midst of the new Northern Illinois Big XII arrangement.
“It gives us a lot to live up to, and I hope softball can play up to the level of the other sports who have done well in conference,” Willis said. “We’ve simplified a lot of things offensively and defensively, where they might have been too complicated a year ago. I think that’s going to help us.”