Saad Yousuf / Staff Writer
The Mean Green softball team is getting ready to start its second season under the watch of head coach Tracey Kee, and the team is trying to top its 2014 season, the best season in program history.
In Kee’s first season, North Texas started off with a boom, winning 12 of its first 15 games, including an 11-game winning streak. The end of the season was a different story, as the team lost seven of its remaining 10 games, including a six-game losing streak.
Kee said this team has some questions, but also potential.
“We have a lot of unknowns; our fall was full of injuries,” Kee said. “We have a lot of athleticism and a lot of very, very young pitching. Hopefully we can figure it out sooner rather than later.”
The Mean Green did lose significant parts to its successful team from last year, specifically pitcher Ashley Kirk and infielder Brooke Foster.
“I’ve never been one to try and replace a kid,” Kee said. “I believe if your team is good enough, certain kids will rise. If it takes two kids to fill one kid’s numbers, then so be it.”
Kirk won 22 games as the ace of last year’s pitching staff, including 16 complete games. Kee said the team will miss more than just Kirk’s pitching.
“The one thing we miss desperately from Ashley besides her athletic skills is her leadership,” Kee said. “She was an unbelievable leader when it came to things off the field, you know, communication and that kind of thing. Obviously she was a great student athlete on the field. She was a person of great character.”
Though losing Kirk was tough, Kee said she embraces the challenge of finding the next athletes to play that role.
“Any time you lose a kid like that, it’s hard but that’s the kind of kid you want to bring in,” Kee said.
Despite the loss of Kirk, Kee likes how the pitching staff looks for this season. Senior Madison Thompson is one of the pitchers returning this season, and said the pitching will be solid.
“I think this year we’re going to be a full staff,” Thompson said. “We don’t have that one pitcher to go to all the time like we did last year, so this year I think it’s just going to be a huge opportunity for all of us pitchers to step up and work together as a staff. We really compliment each other really well. We each have a different thing to bring to the table.”
One of the pitchers on staff is freshman Monique Garcia. She said she’s excited to contribute right away for Kee.
“I feel really confident about playing for Coach Kee. She knows what she’s doing,” Garcia said. “Last year it was her first year and she had a huge impact on the team.”
Despite the potential the team has, Kee said this season will be challenging.
“If you look at our schedule, it’s by far one of the hardest I’ve attempted to embark on, but everybody has to find a way to contribute,” Kee said.
The team will open the season with a doubleheader on Friday against Seton Hall University at noon, followed by a matchup with Texas Southern University at 4:30 p.m. Thompson said beginning the season with strength will be key.
“We always want to take one game at a time so I think right now our focus is to come out strong and be ready for that first game,” Thompson said.
Long term, Thompson said the team’s goal is to make the Conference USA tournament, and finish better than it did last year.
“Of course we have those long-term goals–get to the tournament, win the tournament, get to postseason–but right now we’re just taking it one game at a time,” Thompson said.
Featured Image: Senior pitcher Madison Thompson throws warm-up tosses with a teammate during practice yesterday at Lovelace Stadium. The softball season starts with a home game at noon on Feb. 6. Photo by Ryan Vance – Senior Staff Photographer