Following a 10-7 overall record in the 2017 season, the Northland Prep Academy softball team is ready to provide some surprises in the 2018 season.
Led by now full-time starting pitcher Megan Swinney, freshman starting catcher Natalie Hansen and what head coach Betty Dean believes will be a strong defense, the Spartans have an underdog mentality as their season begins with an early-season tune-up tournament.
“My hope is they rise to that occasion and think ‘let’s be some giant killers.’ We aren’t a big school compared to other schools we will be playing," Dean said. "Let’s go be a giant killer. Let’s go surprise some teams.”
Swinney is slated to be the team's main starting pitcher, replacing last season’s regular starter Megan Netherton, and will be paired with Hansen.
Despite both being new to their roles at Northland Prep, Swinney said the two have meshed quickly.
“I think it’s going to be really good. Natalie has a lot of skill and she is definitely really experienced in it, so I think it will be really good for us this year,” Swinney said. “We’ve been working together since preseason and I’ve known her because of volleyball too, so I’m really excited about it. I think we have a really good relationship and work really well together.”
Senior shortstop Ellie Webb said she is excited to see what the pitcher can do this year.
“I think Megan is going to do really well. She is really consistent and is a good leader,” Webb said, with Swinney appearing in a few games as a sophomore last season.
Dean added a strength she sees out of her team is hitting. Despite having a young roster, the team has a better base now than at the same point last season.
“I think our hitting is going to be very good. Even the young ones coming up, they are already showing me in the batting cages that they are getting it and there’s going to be small tweaks we are going to have to make throughout the season. But the basics are there, and we have a ton of power,” Dean said.
Dean said she has taken notice of the young catcher and said she can be a special player for Northland Prep as the season progresses.
Across the team, camaraderie and team chemistry is believed to be a strong point. Both Dean and Webb said even though the season has yet to start, the team has meshed quickly.
“I’m thrilled with this group of girls. They feel like a team already, which is really nice. Everybody wants to be successful and wants to help everybody be successful,” Dean said.
Webb said with a team of eight underclassmen, her goal is to ensure the newcomers feel like part of the team.
“I’m really trying to make the younger girls feel welcomed because I remember that was a really big part of it when I was a freshman,” said Webb, who led the team in hits last season as a junior.
Northland Prep starts its regular season on the road as it travels to Holbrook Wednesday before heading to Page and Phoenix Christian next week. The team will finally host its first home game against Horizon Honors on March 6.