@LATechSB Poised for Big Year
Jan. 30, 2018
RUSTON – Although Louisiana Tech’s run to the Conference USA Tournament title and appearance in the Tuscaloosa Regional was a memorable one last season, the experience that the 15 Lady Techster returners gained could prove invaluable this year.
Head coach Mark Montgomery and Co. will play a new role this season as the Lady Techsters enter the 2018 season with a bullseye on their backs after the Conference USA coaches selected LA Tech as the preseason favorite to win the league.
Instead of being the chaser, the Lady Techsters are the chasee.
Tech returns seven positional starters, four pitchers, 15 letter-winners and six all-conference performers. It welcomes 10 newcomers to the mix, including nine true freshmen and one transfer.
The Lady Techster roster is 25 strong and Montgomery feels this is his deepest team in almost two decades of collegiate coaching.
“We are very deep both offensively and defensively,” said Montgomery, who was named the Louisiana Sports Writers Association State Coach of the Year in 2017 after guiding Tech to 38 wins. “On offense we can really match up hitters against pitching styles and maximize our success. If we need more speed we can go that way, if we need more power that is an option. Just so many options, we will truly operate more like a major league roster than a traditional college team. I expect 13 position players to play regularly.”
Offensively, Tech could put six or seven hitters who possess double digit home run ability in the lineup on a daily basis, including outfielders Morgan Turkoly, Jazlyn Crowder, Ali Galaz, catcher Sloane Stewartson, catcher/first baseman Marilyn Rizzato and infielder Taria Page.
Turkoly, Galaz, Crowder and Rizzato all earned all-conference honors last season. Page possesses unbelievable raw power at the plate, something she displayed with her two-out, solo home run in the bottom of the seventh inning against Minnesota All-American pitcher Sara Groenewegen in the Tuscaloosa Regional. Stewartson, just a rookie, has already shown a high ceiling for home run potential through the fall and preseason workouts.
“This team had a taste of high level success last season,” said Montgomery. “With so many players returning, it is really exciting to see how hard they are working so as to obtain that same level of success. They really seem to want to be even better.”
“I think it’s obvious the talent and depth is there but I think the reason we will be successful this year is because of our mentality and how we approach the game,” said Turkoly (accounting major, 2017 Academic All-Conference honoree, 2-time C-USA Academic Medalist). “The love and energy we have for one another is felt and seen day in and day out. I don’t think there is a single player that wouldn’t put this team’s goals and achievement above their own.
“I could not be more excited to step on the field with this team. Our talent and chemistry is unbelievable and we have the potential to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament this year.”
“The depth of our team this year is phenomenal,” said Crowder (marketing major, 2017 C-USA Academic Medalist). “Every practice is a competition between each other for a starting spot. This team demands more of themselves with each practice and is never satisfied. I have no doubt in my mind that we will be highly successful this year.”
“Our depth gives us a really good chance to be successful this year,” said Jensen (kinesiology and health promotions major, 3-time C-USA Commissioners Honor Roll). “We can play to our hitters’ strengths game-to-game which is a huge advantage.”
“What excites me the most is the confidence that this team has coming off of last year,” said Smith (health and physical education major; 3-time C-USA Commissioner’s Honor Roll). “I think that we all know how much depth we have, and how talented we really are. The experience that this team gained last year really was a huge stepping stone, and I think everyone that was able to experience it truly believes that we can do it again.
“The 10 new girls have also done an incredible job hopping on the train with us, and have done nothing but build confidence in what we know we can accomplish. It's an amazing feeling going into my last season feeling more confident in this team's capabilities than ever before. I think the realization and belief that we belong is what is most important.”
The Lady Techsters return three all-conference pitchers in Preslee Gallaway (2017 2nd team) and Krystal De La Cruz (2017 1st team, 2017 C-USA Newcomer of the Year) and Bailey Allen (2016 1st team) while sophomore Jenny Chapman and freshmen Jensen Howell and Erin McDonald provide additional depth in the circle.
The Lady Techsters open the season Feb. 8-10 at the Puerta Vallarta Collegiate Challenge in Mexico against No. 21 James Madison, Nevada and Long Beach State. Tech also faces preseason Top 25 teams in Texas A&M, LSU and Utah. The schedule will provide plenty of challenges, but it is exactly what Montgomery and his players want.
“The key is for us not to become complacent, for us to continue to work hard and believe even when things don't go our way, and for us to give our all to the team,” said Montgomery.
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