TYLER, Texas — The college softball season begins in February and the UT Tyler Patriots are looking to build on their dynasty.
In the last two seasons, Coach Mike Reed's team won back to back lone star conference championships and punched a ticket to the Division II World Series in their first year of post season eligibility.
“To have the run that we did," Reed said. "The expectations here are high. Our alumni are really proud of what's been done before, and for this team to take that and move it forward. It's something we're really proud of. We always want to take the program and leave it better than we found it, and I think last year was a really big step for us as we started Division two.”
The patriots return missing seven seniors from last year’s epic run. Most notably the school’s RBI leader, Ashley Perez.
“What I found is, the better we do at recruiting, we will always heartbroken when they graduate," Reed said. "My youngest son always asked 'Why do they have to when they have to leave us?' So they can go get a job in the real world.”
Although the Patriots lost a lot, the standard of excellence doesn’t go away, it gets passed on. Two experienced veterans returning are hard hitters Courtney Plocheck and Tatum Goff.
“Their job now changes to not only about them, but how they can help this team prepare for the journey and use the experiences they've gotten last year," Reed said.
Coach hopes their experience from last season will help lead the newcomers of 2023.
“We try to take what we learned last year from the leaders, which was Ashley, Perez," Goff said. "She's the best player, best person, everything. We take what she told us and we try to put it in our words for this year's team, and just try and build on what she's already created in the past leaders before her.”
The patriots are returning 11 players and bringing in 10 faces, but what’s new on the coaching staff is Shannon Klaus, a player from last year’s squad joining coach Whitney Wyly as notable team alumni.
“I mean, it's no accident that we like to have former players working for us and the wealth of experience of not only playing in the big games, both of them have played in the World Series for us," Reed said. "Connecting the past to the current is really, really important to us. And they're huge assets to what we do.”
The season begins February 3rd with all eyes on the Patriots, and Courtney Plocheck says they have what it takes, but not without the work.
“We work hard every day and no matter what we put in front of us, we face adversity," Plocheck said. "We will do anything we can to beat whoever's across the field.”