Team full of talent, high hopes

By Elizabeth Frome, Staff Writer

After a disappointing end to a losing season riddled with injuries, Utah’s softball team is looking to rebuild and start fresh for the 2010 season. Picked to finish No. 4 in the conference, the team ended as No. 5 for 2009, rallying late in the season to move up in the standings from No. 6.

Head coach Amy Hogue said the team has been in a rebuilding stage since she joined the program three years ago and expects the team to make some big strides this season.

“I’ve scheduled an extremely hard schedule (that) allows our team to see what the top looks like,” she said. “There are some incredible tournaments, and we’ll be playing the best of the best.”

The spring schedule has yet to be finalized and released.

Hogue said she plans on many of her younger athletes helping the team to pull out wins in tough matchups. She said based on last season’s performances, she expects several of them to get a lot of playing time this year.

“Last year we started a lot of young kids, and we’re going to do that again,” Hogue said.
She said the recruits joining the team this season will be ready to impress as well. One in particular is junior Ashley Rosenberg.

“Ashley plays a lot of positions, and she’ll be a new look for the Utes,” Hogue said. “She’ll compete for starting short stop.”

Last season’s short stop was senior captain Sharee Fonoti, who graduated along with seniors Angie Boardman, Bonnie Muir, Andrea Hoffman and Staci Hemingway. Boardman and Hemingway were also team captains.

Three other freshmen recruits will be joining Rosenberg and the returning athletes from last season, bumping this season’s roster to 17. Four players will be back as seniors, replacing all but one who graduated at the end of the 2009 season. Because three of last year’s seniors were team captains, Hogue said she expects her new seniors to step up and lead the team.

Senior center fielder Kara Foster is one of those returning to the Utes after summer, and is expected by the coaching staff and fellow teammates to take on a big leadership role in the program.

“Having Kara as a senior is going to be a big deal,” said sophomore infielder Whitney Holm. “She is someone who plays to win.”

Foster broke the Utes’ home run record in April and ended her junior season with 53 career home runs. She was named Mountain West Conference Player of the Week in May and was selected to the 2009 All-Mountain West Conference team.

In spite of her athletic accomplishments, Hogue said she plans on taking the emphasis off of Foster’s physical game and challenging her to be more of a leader.

“There will be games when she is the only senior on the field,” Hogue said. “Kara has been challenged to step up her leadership qualities.”

Foster, who Hogue said has led the team with her bat, said she’s capable of rising to the new challenge, but is happy to get to work together with other seniors to lead the team.

“It’s not always going to be me that says the right thing,” Foster said. “Each of us brings a leadership quality to the team.”

Also returning as seniors for the 2010 season are outfielder Tori Medina and pitchers Ashley Smuda and Lindsey Palmer.

Palmer suffered a back injury last season, adding to the already long list of injured athletes on the team. Hogue said the injuries included concussions, back problems, a strained ACL, shoulder pain and a broken leg.

“I’m anxious to see if we can have healthier bodies this year,” Hogue said.

The team’s pitchers seemed to have struggled the most with injuries last year, and Hogue said Smuda is the only pitcher who left for the break without any lingering issues.
She said she hopes all her pitchers are back to 100 percent, but that they won’t be certain until the team starts practicing together and preparing for fall ball.

“Its nerve-racking for a coach to know your pitchers aren’t throwing,” Hogue said.
Pitcher Joni Cook was recovering from a shoulder injury during the break, but Hogue said she is hopeful for her to be back in action right away with the Utes.

“We’ve put a lot of stock in (Cook) to lead us one day,” Hogue said.

Firm positions on the field have yet to be decided, but Hogue and Foster both said they feel as though many people on the team will be able to play several different spots if necessary when the season rolls around.

[email protected]