The Weber State women’s softball team have barely started their season, and already the expectations are high. After being ranked first in the preseason polls, the team members know a target is painted on their back for conference play — as there should be after their recent success.
In the previous season, the team won the Big Sky Conference and went on to the NCAA Tournament yet were beaten early on.
Even so, what the team accomplished was amazing. The softball program was only resurrected in the last five years, and coach Mary Kay Amicone took the reigns of the program less than two years ago. With her vision and leadership, the Wildcats have moved from last in their conference to a championship-caliber team.
“Coach Amicone gave the program an extra edge,” senior outfielder Rudi Barrios said. Barrios has been with the team since its infancy and has been able to witness the teams evolution as a player. When she started as a freshman, the team was ranked second to last in the Big Sky Conference.
Amicone holds an impressive record as a collegiate coach with over 14 seasons as head coach of softball for several universities and now holds a 576-219 record.
When asking the team about what being ranked No. 1 in the conference meant to them, Barrios said, “having No. 1 is just a compliment, showing that over the past couple years, we have gained the respect of other teams in our conference.”
Alyson Kulp, another member of the team, added, “I don’t think it adds pressure. I think it just is our point of view. I don’t think it should mean anything. We would be working just as hard. However, when other teams view it, it’s a big target on our back.”
Although being ranked at the top of their division, the team still understands and sees the need for continual improvement.
“Our team is ranked fifth for defense in the conference, so there is definitely room for improvement. That’s a big goal for us this year,” said pitcher Kirtlyn Bohling.
With pre-season play beginning, the challenges for this team will come early, facing two, top-20 teams: San Diego State and Cal State Fullerton. As of Friday in pre-season play, the Wildcats have a 2-0 record under their belt.
When asked about the upcoming season, Amicone said, “We have a very tough pre-season coming. Coming out of the Field House into 80-degree weather for us will be fun. It shows the mental toughness of our team when we are inside for that length of time. Then we move outside, and its 37 degrees.”
When asked about what was learned from last season and what could be applied to this season for a potential return to the NCAA tournament, Amicone didn’t mince her words: “Offensively, we weren’t good enough.”
This year, that goal has changed. “The Big Sky Conference is the goal, [and] staying healthy is key. If the team approaches everything the same they did last year, they will have great success.” In a closing statement from Amicone, she said the team’s overall goal is to “stay hungry, stay humble, and keep getting better,” and more than anything, “We love being able to represent the University.”