After their most successful season in school history, the softball team looks to continue its dominance and repeat its record-breaking performance.
Last season, the Comets finished with a 36-10 record and captured their first ASC championship with a 7-5 win against the UT Tyler Patriots. Their successes in the regular season and ASC tournaments led them to their first ever NCAA Division III tournament appearance. Ravin Wilson, a junior infielder, reflected on the team’s new experiences and the lessons they learned at the tournament.
“I think the different atmosphere threw us off and no one really knew what to expect,” Wilson said. “I definitely think that once we get back there this year that we’ll be better.”
Despite their early elimination in the NCAA tournament, the Comets broke various season records, racking up 297 runs, 264 RBI, 35 home runs and 16 consecutive wins from March 31 through April 19. In a year when the team was picked to finish near the bottom of the standings, the Comets silenced critics over the course of the season. Jessica Vlasek, a sophomore utility player who was the designated hitter last year, knew that the players believed in each other from the first day of practice.
“As a freshman coming in, I knew immediately that our one goal was to win,” Vlasek said. “It was just exactly from day one, we knew what we wanted and we knew how to get it.”
One of the biggest changes this off-season was the departure of head coach Rich Wieligman, who left in November to become the associate head coach at the University of Kansas. A month after Wieligman assumed his new position, Athletic Director Bill Petitt announced that Corrie Hill would be the interim head coach.
Hill was previously the assistant head coach at the University of Central Florida and served as the head hitting coach for the University of Texas. Junior pitcher Allie Stephens said there was a period uncertainty of the team while the team did not have a head coach.
“I think it’s been tough at times, but I think we’re all kind of on the same page,” Stephens said. “I think it’s just another testament towards our team that we stick through everything together and we’re going to get through it regardless.”
UTD was chosen to finish second in the ASC preseason poll behind UT Tyler, receiving one vote for first place. The Comets defeated the Patriots in last season’s championship game.
“(UT Tyler) is the one that we want to beat for sure, just because they’re good and we know that we’re good,” Stephens said. “But they definitely carry themselves a little differently.”
The Comets begin the season on Feb. 10 at home against the Mary-Hardin Baylor Crusaders. The Comets are coming off of the best season in history.
“We gained a ton of knowledge and we have the experience under our belt now,” Stephens said. “I think that makes a huge difference and I wouldn’t count us out.”