Jan. 29, 2013
ATHENS, Ga. - As the Georgia softball team prepares for the 2013 season an excitement surrounds the eight returning players and eight newcomers that will suit up for the Bulldogs for the season opener on Feb. 8, against Elon.
While acknowledging the quality of players that she no longer has at her disposal, including All-American and 2012 National Pro Fastpitch Rookie of the Year Kristyn Sandberg, head coach Lu Harris-Champer said that the current crop of Bulldogs has her looking forward to opening day.
“Clearly we had some great talent that graduated and it’s very hard to replace them, especially when it comes to heart and soul and the level of competition,” Harris-Champer said. “However, we’re excited about the class that we have and the team that we have today and we’re looking forward to seeing who steps up to fill those shoes. It’ll be lots of competition and a lot of kids vying for those positions and getting the opportunity to get out there and compete.”
Georgia has eight players returning from last year’s team that advanced to the NCAA Knoxville Super Regional. Among the returners are seniors Maya Branch, Christine Olney and Tess Sito. Associate head coach Gerry Glasco said that much is expected of the returning class.
“We’ve got some great players coming back, girls that got a lot of experience last year,” Glasco said. “Then we’ve got Morgan (Montemayor) with two years of experience in the circle. We think Morgan’s going to be really good for us this year.”
The eight returning players will be joined by eight freshmen, including 2012 Gatorade National Softball Player of the Year Geri Ann Glasco. While they are yet to be tested in a game situation, the freshmen earned praise for their hard work from the associate head coach.
“You can’t really tell until they get in a game but you can tell that they work hard every day and they’re really enthusiastic,” Glasco said. “They obviously have talent and I feel like they’re developing really well through their hard work.”
Along with the Georgia team, the landscape of the Southeastern Conference has changed since the last time the Bulldogs took the field with the addition of Missouri and Texas A&M to the conference. Both teams finished last season ranked in the top-20 of both end-of-season softball polls. The Harris-Champer said she only sees these additions benefitting Georgia going forward.
“It’s outstanding because they’re both top-10 teams. The more great competition we get to compete against every single weekend in conference the more we’re prepared for postseason” Harris-Champer said. “I couldn’t imagine two greater opponents to bring in because they’ve both competed on the national stage and it’s just awesome to have that every game in conference.”
The Bulldogs begin their season with the Sixth Annual Red and Black Showcase as they welcome Elon, Ohio State and Winthrop to Athens for the three-day tournament. Georgia then plays in the 10th Annual Georgia Softball Classic, Cathedral City Classic, Fifth Annual Bulldog Invitational and Winthrop Tournament before playing Georgia Tech on March 13, and beginning SEC play two days later against Auburn.
Harris-Champer hopes that the intense competition of tournaments the Bulldogs face at the beginning of the season, will prepare them well for the SEC slate and a post-season run.
“The more we can get out of each and every day in a competitive sense is great. We’re building that enthusiasm and having the team find that love of competition,” she said. “Building in that type of competitive mindset is what we’re trying to get to so that we’ll be ready to compete in conference.”