by Mike Slodki
While Kaneland girls softball had a successful 2008 season at 23-7 and pulled out a gritty 1-0 win over Rosary in a regional semifinal, it lost a heartbreaker in the championship to Burlington Central.
Now, KHS coach Dennis Hansen hopes the team takes all from last year, good and bad, and uses it for a springboard.
“We hopefully build on last year; it’s a different team and we have some new people waiting to step up,” Hansen said. “We have some girls playing new positions and will have a little more speed.”
Kaneland’s pitching factors in whatever success the Lady Knights have in ’09, and it starts with ace Mallory Huml (17-4 in 2008, 0-1 in 2009). “Her curve is what she does best, and we also have Delaney Vest, who got the win in the opener. She’ll try the outfield, as well,” Hansen said.
With Huml among the seven returning players, the Lady Knights also see the return of four-year starters Brianna Hurst (2B) and Sara Rose (SS), Chassidy Mangers, Jordan Herra, Erin Heyob and Jessica Lubic.
“Lubic is a good hitter who got some experience a year ago, and we expect big things at first base,” Hansen said.
In the outfield, a combination of Mangers, Vest, Herra and Jordan Hester look to patrol.
Andrea Dimmig-Potts will get a shot at third, and Rilee Vest sets up behind the plate.
Junior Kristen Stralka is in the outfield, junior Tara Groen joins her in that spot, junior Brittany Davis is at second and junior Erin Rocha is also in the outfield.
Hansen hopes the defense can become a strength.
“We have some things to work on based on the first two games, and hopefully it’ll be solid,” Hansen said.
Kaneland looks to do battle with tough Western Sun Conference squads, with some having a different look.
“Glenbard South went to State, lost some key people, but they can rebuild in a hurry. Sycamore could do well and DeKalb could surprise people,” Hansen said.
When 2009′s story gets told, the Lady Knights look to meet, step up to and surpass the challenges that met them in ’08.
“We came up against some good pitchers at the end, and we want to beat teams like that this year,” Hansen said.
Photo: Senior Mallory Huml fields some sharp ground balls at Tuesdayâ€™s softball practice in the Kaneland High School gym. Photo by Mary Herra