After losing one of the largest and most accomplished senior classes in school history, Aquinas softball faces more uncertainty than it has recently.
Some talented, proven players remain, but the lineup will mostly need an overhaul after the graduations of names like Valerie and Vanessa Bohuslavsky and Sierra Meysenburg.
Complicating matters was a rainy start to season practices the week of Aug. 12. But while coach Paul Gahan was forced to wait a few days longer to fully experience the excitement of a new season, it couldn't dampen his hopes for turning his latest group of Monarchs into another group of winners.
"For me personally, it feels great to be back on the softball field because it’s been about nine months since I’ve been out here," he said. "We’re really happy to be back. The first couple days have been interesting in that it’s been really wet. That’s been the challenge. This is the first practice that we’ve actually been on the field. It’s nice to actually use the whole field."
The Monarchs return five seniors - Isabel Coufal, Macy Kobza, Lily Plasek, Darian Krenk and Jayci Roh.
"(Starting the season has) been a lot of fun," Krenk said. "We have a different group of girls, and its exciting to get to know every one of them. I think it’s going to be a pretty good time."
The Class of 2020 knows it has big roles to feel this season.
"It’s crazy," Roh said. "The seniors above us, having to step up into their roles is pretty crazy. It’s exciting and a lot of different emotions for my final season."
While Aquinas will miss the senior class, Gahan believes they left a good precedent for the younger classes to follow.
"The good thing about a talented senior group is they gave a template to these younger girls - how to compete. How to be good teammates and those kind of things," he said. "We have a team that’s going to be a different look for sure. We have girls that played varsity last year that will probably be playing different positions.
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"We’re going to have to have girls step up into varsity roles that didn’t play varsity roles previously. We just look for girls to improve as the season goes along and compete really hard and hopefully have a good season."
With the first game at noon on Saturday against Wymore Southern in David City the Monarchs have little time to figure out their starting roster.
"This year it’s a lot of new faces," Gahan said. "Girls playing different positions that played varsity previously and some younger girls that are going to step up into varsity roles.
"It’s a team with experience. The thing about softball is you get experience pretty quickly. After about a week you’re going to gain experience with each game. I look for our girls to compete well."
Some of the new players are already familiar with the team, having served as managers for previous squads.
"We have a ton of new freshmen," Roh said. "Some of them were our managers, so it’s kind of fun to play with them for once. Getting to know some of the new girls is pretty exciting. Everyone has been pretty helpful and nice.
"Since (the past managers) kind of know the routines, it helps them know how the practices will go. It also helps them know how we play as well."
Even with all the new faces, Aquinas is hoping to have a successful season.
"Our main goal as a team is to make it to the second day of districts," Roh said. "It’s a very new team this year with all the positions having to be filled. It’s just kind of different to see how everyone will play and where people will play and how things will go."
Peter Huguenin is a sports reporter for The Banner-Press. Reach him via email at DVDsports@lee.net