IRVING, Texas – The University of Dallas softball 2017 season begins less than a week. For the fifth time in the past six years, the Crusaders host opening day. The opener is slated on February 4 versus NAIA Ottawa University (KS). First pitch of the doubleheader is scheduled for 12 p.m.
Fourth-year head coach Beth Krysiak carries a roster of 20 players on it. Since inheriting the program coming off six wins in 2013 (6-31), Krysiak has improved the win totals each season at 12, 20, and 21, respectively. The most recent season (21-23) set a new best in school history during a spring season, and surpassed the previous mark by one.
Krysiak is 55-67 overall with the Crusaders and 2nd all-time in the coaching records for wins. Her father, Jim Krysiak, returns in his fourth season as a volunteer assistant coach. The UD staff welcomes Tiffany Ansley in her first season as a volunteer assistant. Ansley served as the Head Coach of University of Arkansas Pine Bluff and played at now American Southwest Conference (ASC) Belhaven University ('10).
In consecutive seasons, the Crusaders tied their most victories (13) since joining the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference (SCAC) in 2012 and snagged the 3rd seed in the tournament. Dallas did advance farther than ever before in the tournament by winning game one (Schreiner 11-6) and the first elimination game (Southwestern University 9-1). The Crusaders were eliminated in their fourth game of the tournament and second elimination game of the day against Centenary College. Avery Finch was named to the All-SCAC Tournament Team (2nd of her career). Finch matched the SCAC Tournament stolen bases record with five apiece.
Finch returns along with three other seniors. This veteran group is headlined by Finch and Katie Lee (Houston, Texas), who both have etched their names in several places in the UD softball record books. Finch has played all 116 games in her career and set single season records for at bats (144), tied hits (52), and stolen bases (36). Her steals tied 1st in the United States Collegiate Athletic Association (USCAA) and ranked 2nd in the SCAC. This amount propelled her atop in the school career record books at 83.
Lee started 35 games last season to set the individual season record. Lee tied 1st in the SCAC and 5th in the USCAA for total wins with 15. That was four shy of her own single season record made in 2015, but helped lift her to 40 all-time which is most for a career pitcher. The right hander is 40-39 overall in three seasons and has gathered two saves (school record). Each save has been credited once the last two seasons to count as a UD season record. Finally, Lee begins the campaign in the circle as the career leader in innings pitched (527.2) and strikeouts (252).
Allison Kotlar (Edna, Texas) has been a steady face for the Crusaders, playing all but six games her freshman year. Finch and she matched a single season record for games played last year with 44. The left fielder amassed career-highs in most categories including: hits (42), doubles (8), home runs (3), RBI (22), runs scored (27), and stolen bases (10). Her pair of triples tied the same amount her first two seasons.
Finch, Lee, and Kotlar all earned USCAA All-American Honors, and Kotlar was named to the USCAA All-Academic Team for the 2nd straight year.
Alexandria Compte (Houston, Texas) is the individual season record holder for home runs with six in 2014. She powered another home run last year in an eventual walk-off victory, 7-6), against Southwestern Assemblies of God (Feb. 28). The slugger had two hits (both extra bases) and a pair of runs batted in.
Five returners that join the experienced seniors to complete the nine are junior Christina Torre (Novato, Calif.) and four sophomores: Melanie Savala (Bryan, Texas), Tera Espinosa (Caldwell, Texas), Baileigh Perkins (Orange, Texas), and Stephanie Cervantes (Temecula, Calif.). The quartet was led by Savala and Cervantes offensively in their rookie seasons.
Savala hit a .293 average and swiped 18 steals (2nd on team), drew 18 walks (1st), cracked 10 doubles (3rd), and was just in the top five on several other categories including hits (36), runs batted in (17), and runs scored (20). Cervantes batted .287 and drove in 18 (4th on team) and clubbed three homers (tied 2nd). Espinosa made 20 appearances, including 16 starts at first base.
The remaining 11 players that makeup the roster are newcomers, including 1 transfer. Jade Miller (Plano, Texas) joined the team in January and is continuing her academics as a freshman. Completing the other 10 spots are true freshmen: Allie Driskill (Houston, Texas), Lauren Galvan (Bryan, Texas), Shannon Sheeley (Cedar Hill, Texas), Mackenzie Tano (Wylie, Texas), Britin Strobel (Parker, Colo.), Emily Martin (San Jose, Calif.), Lety Morales (Fontana, Calif.), Ashley Nicholson (Reno, Nev.), Baylee Leifester (Belton, texas), and Katelyn Lazarek (Seattle, Wash.).
QUOTEABLES FROM COACH KRYSIAK
SEASON EXPECTATIONS: "My expectations for season are based on us continually getting better throughout the spring. We are focused on working hard day in and day out and not only making each player better, but having good influences on each other every day. The goal is to not just become better players, but better people every day."
KEY RETURNERS: "Avery Finch and Allison Kotlar are going to be great leaders on the field and at the plate this year for the team. They have both stepped up in individual ways to lead the team in their senior season and I am excited to see them continue to grow in their respective leadership roles. Alex Compte has become a force at the plate in the offseason, I am looking forward to how that will translate to games this season for the team. Katie Lee has maintained her spins on the mound that have helped us win games in the past and will again this year. Stephanie Cervantes is working hard behind the plate and is learning from the seniors how to lead the team. Mel Savala is setting a great example of how to work hard in her sophomore year and how to really get better year to year. She has been very versatile for us this spring already."
NEWCOMERS "We have 10 newcomers on the team this year and we are excited about how well they have been stepping up and fitting in. As a group they have a lot to offer the program. They are all working hard and going to be a large piece of our success this season."
OPPONENTS: "We have not looked ahead this season. We are focused on what we are doing day in and day out. Each game will present an opportunity to test where we are as a team and how we can continue to work and grow to be our best come time to play for a championship at the end of season."
POINTS OF EMPHASIS: "For us to be successful this year, we simply need to be comfortable pushing ourselves beyond what we have previously known. We have to keep pushing our teammates and working together every day to become the best we can collectively be."
FAVORITE PART OF DALLAS: "The players are my favorite part of coaching at Dallas. The girls in the program are great people and incredibly coachable. They work hard and are respectful. They have their sights set on doing well this season and it's my job to help them achieve that."