That’s the key word for the Union High School softball program this season.
Not only do the Lady ’Cats have a new head coach this season, but the team changes home fields to the Wildcat Baseball/Softball Field.
Tiffany Poggas, an assistant for the past two seasons, takes over as the head coach following the retirement of Bill Juengel.
Union continues to practice for the rest of this week from 9-11:30 a.m. and will switch to 3:30-6 p.m. next week.
“I really appreciate that Bill took a chance and let me join his coaching staff in 2012,” Poggas said. “It was a great opportunity to learn from some guys (Juengel and Dave Scheer) who have been around coaching (a variety of sports) for a very long time.”
This season, Poggas said she intends to make changes, including trimming the roster.
“There are definitely some changes that are going to be made,” Poggas said. “I am a very competitive person by nature and I hope to bring out the competitive spirit in the girls. I plan on trimming down the roster also. We were lucky enough to have six coaches last year so it was easy to keep 28 girls. I only plan on keeping 22-23 girls, especially with the reduced staff. I really want to focus on improving individuals to obtain our overall team goals. If we have a large roster, we just can’t do that. There will be other changes but this being my first year in the head coaching position means I have a lot to learn myself.”
As for changing home facilities from the Union Softball Complex to the high school campus, Poggas said it’s been an interesting switch.
“Well, the new turf made sliding practice at camp a whole lot more fun,” Poggas said. “It is definitely a change. The girls are adjusting pretty well to the field. The way the ball reacts is a lot different on turf than dirt. But I haven’t heard any complaints about it and I definitely don’t have any myself.”
Union had 31 players come out for the team, including 14 upperclassmen and 19 returning players. Two starters are back from last year’s team. Poggas indicated cuts will be made after the Wednesday practice.
She said the players came into camp ready to go and in good shape.
“Overall, I really think so,” said Poggas. “I made sure to mention during open gyms and camp that they should expect to run. They all did a pretty good job.”
The switch to an early high school practice schedule has been accepted well by the Union softball program.
“I don’t mind it at all, especially since the softball season is so short,” Poggas said. “This extra time gives us a few more looks at options before starting right into games and eliminates the need for Saturday practices.”
Union will host a three-team softball jamboree Saturday, Aug. 16, with Sullivan and Eureka coming to the event.
Union will play Sullivan at 9 a.m. Sullivan then will play Eureka at 10 a.m. and Union will face Eureka at 11 a.m.
Each scrimmage will run for four innings as teams are only allowed eight innings for the entire day. An inning will end after either three outs have been recorded or eight runs have been scored.
Change has been felt on the volleyball side as well, where Angie Morris ran her first practice Monday afternoon.
The team has one new coach this season, former ECC volleyball player Kelli Sans Souci, who will run the JV team. Sans Souci is a Bourbon graduate and also played at Lindenwood-Belleville.
Rebecca Montalbano returns as the freshman team coach.
On the first day of practice, Union had 38 players come out for the team with 19 of them being freshmen.
“I’m really excited with the freshmen who showed up,” Morris said. “The more we get out, the more we can build the program.”
Union has four seniors this season with Brooke Pope, Emily Schroeder and Kaitlin Voss returning from the 2013 team. Emily Nowak is out for the team as well.
“I’m pretty excited about our returning players,” Morris said. “I’ve seen a lot of progress over the summer.”
Besides the seniors, Morris said Maddie Stowe, Jessie Kelly and Lydia Klenke looked strong during summer sessions. All three were JV players last season.
“We did quite a few open gyms in June and July and played in a one-day tournament in Perryville. The girls worked hard and did really well. Greenville College ran our camp once again and that was pretty exciting.”
Morris said the team is concentrating on trying to be more confident.
“We will focus on thinking we’re going to win,” Morris said. “We’re practicing to win. We need to think we deserve to win. We’re focusing on the mental aspect. I think we have the talent, we’ve got to put it all together now.”
Union also is fielding football, boys soccer and cross country programs in the fall. Information from the opening day of practice for those teams was not available as of press time.