PARACHUTE - So what if the Grand Valley High School softball team is coming off a two-win season? At least, that's the way coach Brooke Whitman feels.
"I think we'll have one of the better teams in the league this year," the fourth-year coach of the Cardinals said. "We have so much talent and athleticism on our team, and we're only going to get better."
Granted, the Cardinals' 1-7 record in the 3A Western Slope League and 2-15-1 overall mark last season can justify Whitman's final comment. A slew of inexperience, which led to mistakes on the field, made a difference in Grand Valley's final record.
"Last year we made a lot of mistakes," Whitman said. "This year, one of the main focuses is to pull the girls together as a team and improve from where we started to when we finish.
"We have a lot of very strong athletes this year," Whitman continued. "We are focused on eliminating fielding and batting errors, but we're also focused on putting our personal team goals first. We have a lot of things to improve on from last year."
They'll be in a league with a different look, as Rifle moves up to the 4A classification and will be replaced by Aspen. Defending league champ Gunnison, along with Basalt and Cedaredge, remain.
Junior Ashlynn Speakman will be the primary pitcher for the Cardinals, who will be anchored by a strong middle infield that includes junior shortstop Ashley Radel and senior second baseman Bailey Ann Merry. Another key returnee, junior Hannah Cornelious, will anchor the Grand Valley outfield in center field.
Juniors Haley Johnson (third base) and Sierra Berger (outfield) are expected to contribute after seeing some significant varsity time last year. Junior Denie Noble (outfield) returns after a one-year absence from the team, and sophomore Whitnie Vance (first base) may also see significant playing time.
Grand Valley begins its season Aug. 21, when it plays a non-league game at Eagle Valley.