"We have a lot of returners; they've been through the system, they're catching on and they're really coming together as a team," Lady Wolverines head coach Amy Tillson said after Tuesday's 5-1 win over Antioch. "We learned a lot from last year and we needed that. This year we come in with all that knowledge and all that experience and we're going to be up there at the top of the league."
Sophomore standout Emily Allard is expected to be one of the most dominant pitchers in the league this season, combining an impressive repertoire of pitches with overpowering heat.
"She's phenomenal. She's absolutely phenomenal," said Tillson. "She's got a whole bunch of different pitches and she can keep batters on their toes. Every once in a while they'll get a hit on her - just putting the bat on the ball - but she's one of the top pitchers in the league along with Hannah (Williams of Freedom)."
The Lady Wolverines also field a daunting defense behind their star hurler. Junior Therese Gascon-Minton's dazzling glove-work at second and Jessica Pader and Jessica Gilbertson's rotation at shortstop make the infield impermeable up the middle.
Senior leftfielder Courtney Smith has made significant strides in her game since last season, becoming one of the team's most consistent contributors at the plate and a player the Lady Wolverines count on to fuel their offense.
Tillson is hopeful that fellow outfielder Chelsea Brandt, a junior, can raise her game in a similar fashion as she continues to improve as a switch-hitter.
"Last year was our learning year and our time to make adjustments. This year they've got to win," Tillson said of her expectations for the team. "They know that Freedom is beatable - they don't have Amanda (Williams) anymore, and Hannah is a great pitcher, but we can hit her. They realize that it can be a realistic goal for them to win league and go undefeated."
Deer Valley 5, Antioch 1
Deer Valley cruised to a 5-1 home win over Antioch on Tuesday afternoon. Allard took a shutout into the final frame and struck out four on her way to the complete-game victory.
Allard went 1-for-2 at the plate with a walk, a stolen base and two runs scored; catcher Rachael Martinez went 1-for-2 with a pair of RBI, and Gascon-Minton went 1-for-2 with a run scored in the win.
The Lady Wolverines hosted Clayton Valley Thursday afternoon after the Press went to publication. The team returns to the field Tuesday, March 27, when it travels to Concord to take on Carondelet.