Photo: Kaneland’s Allyson O’Herron slides safely into third during the regional championship game last year.
Softball squad eyes extending goal beyond regional title
by Mike Slodki
Kaneland—With two-thirds of its Regional Championship lineup returning, the KHS softball team is preparing to show what it can do when Opening Day 2013 arrives.
That core of the team knows what it’s like to come back when the chips are down, like in last year’s Regional Championship win over Yorkville. Yet, they’ll have to do it without some of last year’s key players.
Gone are the likes Northern Illinois Big XII MVP and current Northern Illinois Huskie Delani Vest and reliable backstop McKinzie Mangers, but fellow all-NIB12 members Paige Kuefler, Hayley Contorno, Aly O’Herron and Lexi Roach solidify this year’s lineup.
In fact, most of the lineup from last year’s 31-7 team will return, and they will apply the experience gained from advancing all the way to the Belvidere North Sectional semifinal last May.
Fourth-year coach Brian Willis was at the helm for the first regional title win for the school in seven years.
“There’s no question that team was special last year, and they accomplished a lot of things,” Willis said. “They won 31 games and a regional, but they (the 2013 team) still have goals they want to achieve. We did lose some key players, and every school goes through that, but we have several girls coming back that are anxious to get back out on the field.”
The lineup looks to combine success and hunger.
“We have girls that will use last year as a motivating factor for this year,” Willis said.
Returning captain O’Herron patrols shortstop.
“I’m biased, but I think she’s one of the best shortstops in the entire area,” Willis said.
Junior Hayley Contorno returns at first with Rosary’s loss continuing to be a KHS gain on defense. Sophomore Kuefler moves from third to her natural position of catcher, and will try to duplicate her middle-of-the-order success at the plate. All-conference junior Roach and junior Callaghan patrol the outfield and help with the bats, with senior Sarah Grams back for an outfield job, as well. Callaghan looks for a full-strength year after missing half of 2012 with injuries, yet she still hit over .500.
Second-base will be a platoon, and freshman Meg Cohrs will start at third.
Senior Ellissa Eckert, junior Allie Miller and sophomore Anissa Becker shore up the pitcher’s circle, with Eckert having the more sizable throwing experience.
“Replacing somebody like Delani will be very difficult, but you could have someone step up and be a surprise this year; that’s sports,” Willis said.”This is their opportunity to shine.”
Fellow members of the Lady Knight roster include outfielders junior Caroline Heimerdinger, senior Morgan Newhouse, junior Megan Frascona, senior Taylor Krawczyk and junior Kaley Martens.
Infielders include junior Maddy Hester and senior Kristin Gabrielson.
The Lady Knights begin 2013 on Friday, March 15, at Jacobs High School in Algonquin, Ill. A spring break softball trip takes the team to Louisville, Ky.
KHS Softball Roster
# NAME POS. YR.
1 Caroline Heimerdinger OF Jr
2 Sarah Grams OF Sr
3 Maddy Hester IF Jr
4 Allyson O’Herron IF Sr
6 Lanie Callaghan OF Jr
8 Allie Miller IF/P Jr
14 Haley Contorno IF Jr
16 Meg Cohrs IF Fr
18 Paige Kuefler IF/C So
21 Morgan Newhouse OF Sr
24/44 Anissa Becker P/IF So
26 Megan Frascona OF/P Jr
27 Taylor Krawczyk OF Sr
31 Kristin Gabrielson IF Sr
37 Kaley Martens OF Jr
50 Ellissa Eckert IF/P Sr
70 Lexi Roach OF Jr