The UNO softball team is little more athletic, has a little more speed and has a little more power in the lineup, coach Jeanne Scarpello says.
The only thing the Mavs don't have is a little more experience.
The University of Nebraska at Omaha will open the season with seven freshmen on its 16-player roster.
Three will start: Campbell Ditto of Wamego, Kan., at catcher; Tara Trede from Wahoo Neumann at second base; and an undetermined freshman at the designated player spot.
The Mavs also will have a newcomer in the leadoff spot in center fielder Allie Mathewson, a sophomore transfer from Creighton who attended Papillion-La Vista South.
Instead of being worried about the newcomers, Scarpello loves the energy they've brought to the team.
“They are very driven and very competitive,” she said. “You can see that in the way they play.”
UNO opens the season Friday at 10:30 a.m. against Iona, and then faces host North Carolina-Wilmington at 3:30 p.m. in the UNCW Beach Blast.
“All the teams we're going against are teams we can compete with,” Scarpello said.
Dana Elsasser, a junior from Hershey, Neb., returns to the circle after posting a 13-9 record with a 1.07 earned-run average last year. The ace had eight shutouts and completed 20 of her 24 starts.
“She can keep us in the game with anybody,” Scarpello said.
No. 2 pitcher Kat Barrow, sidelined by injury, has just started throwing live and Scarpello is hoping that she can get in a few innings this weekend.
The Mavericks played some tough competition in the fall, and Scarpello is eager to see how her young players do when it counts.
“We feel pretty good about where we are at right now,” she said.
UNO roster: Allie Mathewson, OF/IF, So., Papillion-La Vista South. Molly Negrete, IF, Sr., Millard South. Tara Trede, IF, Fr., Wahoo Neumann. Tonya Peterson, IF, So., Omaha Westside. Sydney Hames , IF, Fr., Bennington High. Bailey Schulenberg, OF, Fr., Lincoln Southwest. Dana Elsasser, RHP, Jr., Hershey High. Mara Eeman, OF, So., Ralston. Tania Carroll, OF, Fr., Lincoln Southwest. Amber Lutmer, C/IF, Jr., Millard West. Ashton Hughes, RHP, Sr., Regina, Saskatchewan. Lindsay Redding, OF, Sr., Papillion-La Vista. Kat Barrow, RHP, So., Kearney, Mo. Kayla Wyatt, RHP, Fr., Purcell, Okla. Jesslyn Buie, IF, Fr., Kansas City, Kan. Campbell Ditto, C/OF, Fr., Wamego, Kan.
CU's Homan taking charge in center field
Christa Ruf is no longer on the team but the fifth-year Creighton nursing student is still making her presence felt in center field.
She started training Ellen Homan to take over her spot even before the junior from Omaha Skutt got the official word she'd be starting in center this spring.
Ruf hit fly balls to Homan over the summer and has given her lots of advice about playing center field in college. Homan said she picked up a lot just watching Ruf, an All-MVC scholar athlete and an all-tournament pick last season.
“She was being that big sister she always was for me,” Homan said.
Homan loves being in center field, where she directs more of the action. She likes letting the other outfielders know where they should play and what to prepare for every play.
“It's working out. The girls have responded well,” Homan said. “It helps me be vocal, too. I'm kind of on the quieter side, but you can't be quiet in center field. I've been screaming my head off and trying to be the leader in the outfield.”
Homan, who hit .370 last season, will also lead off for the Jays when they open the season Thursday at the Kajikawa Classic in Tempe, Ariz. CU plays New Mexico at 2:30 p.m. and San Diego State at 5.
Homan hopes to hit better than .400 this year, but said she'll concentrate more on things like putting the ball in play and stealing bases.
Coach Brent Vigness said the Jays are ready, even though they've only been able to practice a few times outside.
“It's time for us to go play and see where we are at and come back and work on what we need to,” he said.
Creighton roster: Kelsey Allender, OF, Fr., Rosharon, Texas. Erin McGonigal, IF, Fr., Omaha Skutt. Alexis Cantu, P/1B, Jr., Frisco, Texas. Bri Lingl, UT, So., Schaumburg, Ill. Becca Changstrom, P, Jr., Lincoln Southwest. Blake Ringle, UT, Fr., Millard South. Ashley Frutos, IF, Sr., Santa Paula, Calif. Jordan Brydges, OF, Fr., Woodbury, Minn. Blair Lowe, UT, Jr., Dumfries, Va. Katie Pascuzzi, OF, Fr., Overland Park, Kan. Ellen Homan, OF, Jr., Omaha Skutt. Kim Jacobson, UT, Fr., Schaumburg, Ill. Liz Dike, IF, So., Lincoln Southwest. Cassie Sharon, IF, Fr,. Ellensburg, Wash. Sammy Snygg, P/UT, Sr., Ankeny, Iowa. MaKenzie Michael, OF, Jr., Bellevue East. Amy Baker, C, Sr., Omaha Westside. Brittany Telecky, P, Jr., Seward High.
Huskers motivated by tournament absence
Before the NCAA selection committee revealed its postseason bracket last year, Nebraska's team already knew it didn't make the cut. And that wasn't a good feeling.
But the Huskers are motivated because of it, coach Rhonda Revelle said.
“We have a senior group that's tasted what it's like to be in postseason and then last year the juniors didn't get to go feel that so they're hungry — and they're really doing a tremendous job of role-modeling and mentoring for our young, athletic group,” Revelle said. “We believe we can get there.”
On paper, Nebraska's rebuilding a bit with a young roster. The Big Ten's stuck in a down cycle as well — only two teams (Michigan and Northwestern) from the conference made the NCAA tournament last year.
But that doesn't change the expectations, Revelle said.
The NU program has 20 all-time NCAA tournament appearances, which ranks 12th nationally. The Huskers have reached an NCAA Regional in three of the last four seasons.
“We really feel like we're in the hunt for a Big Ten championship,” Revelle said. “We want to get back in the postseason. That's where our goals are.”
Nebraska roster: Alicia Armstrong, IF, Fr. Beatrice High. Gabby Banda, IF, Sr., Angleton, Texas. Jordan Bettiol, OF, So., College Station, Texas. Danica Bishop, RHP, Fr., Irvine, Calif. Courtney Breault, IF, Sr. Roseville, Calif. Hailey Decker, IF, Fr. Keizer, Ore. Tatum Edwards, RHP, Jr., Murrieta, Calif. Taylor Edwards, C, Jr. Murrieta, Calif. Mattie Fowler, IF, So., Tucson. Emily Lockman, RHP, Fr., Corona, Calif. Kylee Muir, IF, Jr., Portland, Ore. Sammi Noland, C, Fr., Tucson, Ariz. Megan Southworth, OF, Sr., Papillion-La Vista. Kiki Stokes, OF, Fr., Olathe, Kan. Brooke Thomason, OF, Sr., Overland Park, Kan. Dawna Tyson, IF, Fr., Corona, Calif.
— By Marjie Ducey and Jon Nyatawa