Feb. 9, 2012
RUSTON - No one can ever claim Louisiana Tech head softball coach Sarah Dawson is afraid of competition.
Dawson, entering her 10th year in Ruston, will take her Lady Techsters on the road this weekend to open the season at the LSU Tiger Classic where they will play four games against three NCAA Tournament teams from a year ago.
Tech opens the weekend Friday at 3:30 p.m. when it faces preseason 15th ranked Michigan, who is coming off a 53-6 season and who annually competes for a spot in the Women's College World Series. On Saturday, the Lady Techsters face Penn State as the Nittany Lions return eight starters from last year's team that earned its eighth NCAA Tournament appearance in 12 years. Tech will also face the Wolverines for a second time with the game slated for 5:30 p.m. Saturday.
Dawson and Co. will wrap up the tournament Sunday when they face the host LSU Tigers at 12:30 p.m. LSU is ranked 22nd in the preseason Top 25 poll after a 40-18 season a year ago.
"We know we will face tough pitching this weekend," Dawson said. "You don't make postseason runs without some top-notch pitching. Our pitchers will be challenged by facing good hitting, and our hitters will be challenged by facing good pitching. We will have an idea of where we are at against this level of competition. We feel good about the strides we've made offensively since the fall. Our pitching staff has accepted the challenge of working as a staff."
The Lady Techsters return six starters and 11 letter winners from last year's team that struggled to a 17-39 record overall. However, Tech played its best softball of the season down the stretch when the Lady Techsters defeated host and eventual NCAA Tournament participant Fresno State in the opening round of the WAC Tournament. Tech also took No. 2 seed Boise State to 13 innings before falling 3-2.
Gone is the right arm of Meghan Krieg, who ended her Lady Techster career ranked No. 2 in program history and No. 3 in WAC history with 859 career strikeouts. Dawson will rely this year of more of a complete staff with sophomore Erin Kipp and juniors Mel Goff and Michelle Jones making the starts while junior Janna Frandrup and freshman Savannah Dollar seeing time in relief.
"We talked last night about our goals," Dawson said. "Not only our end of the season goals, but the standards we set for how the team will function. How will we respond to adversity. How will individuals respond to the team. That is just as important to our success as where we want to finish in the conference and how deep we want to go in the postseason.
"My expectation for this weekend is to challenge those standards and see where our kids are at early in the year. Practice doesn't always show you. When character is challenged in competition, you see what you are really made of. I'm looking forward to the challenge. The girls are ready to the challenge. I think we are ready. They want to show everyone that we can play with top 25 teams."
Fans can follow all of the action this weekend via Gametracker by logging onto www.lsusports.net.