2016 NCAA Division III National Champions
@Patriot_sb ready to turn page, Focus on 2017 season

Tuesday, January 31, 2017
by Nick Rackley || @rackleysmash

TYLER – May 30, 2016 is a day that will live on forever in the memories for the members of last season’s UT Tyler softball team and their supporters alike.

That was the day that the softball team claimed their first national championship in program history. Since the program was created in 2005, every season became stepping stones toward last May when the Patriots won their first national championship in program history.

Fast forward eight months, and the Patriots are entering the 2017 season preparing to defending it with the page being turned and all the focus being put on this season. Their title defense starts on Friday when they face Pacific University at 3 p.m. and Centenary at 5 p.m. at Suddenlink Field.

One of the biggest question could be: Has the national championship changed the team’s approach?

“We’re a program where the bar is the national championship every year and we set out to try to win that,” said senior KK Stevens. “We want to reach our potential and see where that takes us.”

“The mentality is still the same. We still want that title again,” said senior Lexi Ackroyd. “We’re putting in all the hard work we did last season, even though it is defending the title, you still want the title again, so you put in the same hard work.”

“Everybody realizes that we need to work hard and everyone’s bought in so far,” said sophomore Cheyenne Thompson.

“We expect the same each and every year. We preach that we have a winning tradition and that doesn’t change even though we did win the whole thing last year,” said senior Mel Hinojosa. “We know we’ve got a target on our back but that doesn’t matter.”

The next biggest question: how does a team replace the likes of Kelsie Batten, Vanessa Carrizales and Raven Rodriguez, three players who were vital parts of last season’s team?

“You lose people every year, but Coach Reed has done a really good at recruiting and we have a lot of new, good girls come in,” said senior pitcher Alaina Kissinger, who is 44-2 in her career. “I think they’ll be able to step up and fill the shoes and help the team out.”

“We’ve done a great job of transitioning everyone else in there and getting those reps and I think it will be great,” said senior Kaylee Prather. “We hope it will be just like last year but we’re not going to focus on that just yet and we’ll just take it game by game, practice by practice and try to do it that way.”

Final question: How is this season going to go?

“I think this is going to be a good year for us.” - Thompson.

“We’re really excited to see what this season has in store.” - Stevens.

“I think this season is going to be another great season for us.” – Ackroyd

“We’re excited to see what this season has to offer.” - Hinojosa

“We have the same goal as last year.” – Prather

The defending champions and their supporters are excited for their first title defense, and why shouldn’t they be?