A new coach, a new attitude and three important returning players could mean a better year for the Menlo College softball program.
Michell Vlahos, an assistant at UC Riverside last year, begins her tenure with the Lady Oaks looking to improve on last year's 10-31 overall record.
Returning players Nicole Larson and Ululani Reyes were named first team All-Cal Pac last year while returnee Emmeline Wang was named to the second team.
Larson and Reyes each started all 41 games. Larson led the Lady Oaks in batting average with a .333 and Reyes led the team in runs scored with 27. Wang ended the season with the team's second highest batting average at .321.
These three will be joined by a slew of other players battling for playing time. While it seems like it may be difficult having so many players with their sights set on making an impact, Vlahos sees it as a decided advantage and sign of good things to come.
"We have a deep roster," Vlahos said. "We have 19 athletes who are all trying to get a starting position; five of which are pitchers. The fact that they are here to compete together as well as against each other is helping us."
The five pitchers looking to make an impact this season are: sophomore Jiana Bowie, junior Tricia Davidson, senior Mikayela Viramontes, junior transfer Justine Roscoe, and freshman Kelly Hager.
Viramontes benefits from 68 2/3 innings of work in the circle last year. Davidson also returns with experience. She started 10 games for Menlo, winning twice.
Offensively, Menlo hopes to improve on the team's batting average, .255 last year. Larson and Wang give the Lady Oaks a solid foundation.
Defensively, the Lady Oaks averaged nearly two errors a game last year, resulting in 56 unearned runs.Vlahos had the team spend the offseason working on better communication and fundamentals in hopes of improving their fielding percentage in 2013.
"We expect to be much higher on our fielding percentage," Vlahos said. "Overall being prepared, I think, is a big thing for us."
Menlo hopes their efforts in the offseason will afford them the opportunity to make a run toward the post-season.
"Ultimately, our team goal is to be at the Cal-Pac/GSAC tournament," Vlahos said. "They know as well as anybody else that we are out to compete. That's our goal this year, to not be the team that you walk in and beat. You need to earn a win against us."
Vlahos has chosen not to set many number-based goals this year; rather, she hopes to build and improve on the intangibles that help teams win. An increased competitive drive alongside a strong sense of team unity hope to be the groundwork needed to improve.
"We did a lot of getting on the same page and working on competing. Learning how to fight through anything. This year I decided not to put a number of wins on our goals, because it's not going to help us. What is going to help us is we are going to compete to the best of our ability. We took a path to get everyone bonded this year," mentioned Vlahos.
The 2013 season will get underway Friday as Menlo hosts a doubleheader against Northwest Nazarene University (Idaho). First pitch is set for 9:30am.
A live web stream of both games, as well as all home games, will be available through menloathletics.com by clicking the live webstreaming link on the homepage.