Last season didn't go as hoped for the Mukwonago softball team. A sixth-place finish in the Classic 8 Conference did not satisfy MHS, which returns to the diamond in 2017 with familiar faces at different positions.
Senior Sarah Koltermann, who pitched last season before an injury, is slated to start in the outfield. Koltermann's bat will be a major benefit to Mukwonago's lineup after a junior season of leading the team in batting average (.471), slugging (.647), on-base percentage (.535), on-base plus slugging (1.182), RBIs (24) and doubles (six).
"She's had some nagging injuries," Mukwonago coach Dan Purney said. "An ankle injury that kind of came up, I think, during tennis season for her hasn't allowed her to pitch in the offseason much. Sarah is most likely going to be one of my starting outfielders and one of my strongest bats. If we can get her into condition where she can throw an inning or two here and there, maybe, but it's likely she won't be pitching for us this year."
Koltermann was first-team All Classic 8 last season as a utility player.
Sophomore Maddie Helsper will take over the pitching duties.
"There's always a little level of anxiety when you're not exactly certain who's going to be in the circle for you as you go into the season, but she looks ready to go and we're excited to see what she can do for us this season," Purney said.
After losing experienced varsity catcher Nicole Bugiel to graduation, Purney went to senior Syd Greenwood for help.
"She's been my starting third baseman, and a good one, but she also catches," Purney said. "We talked last season getting ready for it knowing Nicole was graduating, and Nicole had been back there for three years. I said, 'Are you willing to move and take those duties full time?' She certainly was, so I think she's going to be fantastic back there for us."
Sophomore Hailey Brodhagen made second-team All Conference in 2016 as an outfielder.
"When players signed up and I asked them to list positions, she asked me, 'Purney, what position am I?'" Purney said. "I said, 'You're every position, put utility.' She's going to serve as our primary backup catcher, she's going to get a shot at shortstop, and we can also use her in the outfield. She's the ultimate definition of utility. She can play anywhere on the field, other than from the circle, but she probably would give that a try if I asked her to. Obviously, with her speed, she'll be our leadoff batter as well."
Seniors Mikhaela Strasser and Alyssa Polewaczyk are returning starters. Also on Mukwonago's roster are juniors Chloe Liska, Ashlynn Goodchild, Elizabeth Graser, Allie Helm, Bailey Beverage and freshman Brianna Konitzer.
Injuries played a big role in Mukowonago's 2016 campaign.
"Last year, we got real bit with injuries," Purney said. "As a coach, I hadn't prepared adequately players to step in and transition into a backup role. We all of a sudden found ourselves in midgame and having someone step into a position where they didn't take many reps in practice at. I said, 'This year, we're not going to repeat them.' I told them all, 'Be prepared to be a multi-position player.' We're going to try to be as versatile as we can this year all around. It'll be interesting to see how that shakes up with a lot of the young players and the new players."
Mukwonago will have plenty of time to practice before its April 3 season opener at Arrowhead.
"That'll give us a good opportunity to take a long hard look at some players, so they can compete and push one another," Purney said. "I think that's going to be beneficial for everyone involved, because the way the schedule shakes out, once we come out of spring break, it's nonstop until the end."