MONTGOMERY, Ala. –The Huntingdon softball team took a big step in 2012.
The Lady Hawks won their first Great South Athletic Conference tournament championship since 2006 and advanced to the NCAA Division III Regionals for the first time.
Huntingdon wants to do it again this season.
"We definitely raised the bar last year by making it to the regional," Huntingdon softball coach Gynger Williams said. "One of the goals for this team is to get back to the regional and compete with the nationally ranked teams. To do that, we know we have to raise our level of play."
The Lady Hawks have to replace six seniors, including shortstop and GSAC Player of the Year Aleah Payne and two-time GSAC Pitcher of the Year Bree Giordana. But Williams likes what she sees in this year's team.
"We lost some talented seniors, but overall I think this team has the potential to be even better than last year's team," Williams said.
"Melissa is our No. 1 going into the season. She's consistent and always has her game face on," Williams said. "Brooke is very capable of controlling games. As she develops a little more consistency, she will have the ability to control any D-III team we play.
"Those are our top two right now. We have some other pitchers that are coming along and I believe they're going to be able to help us as we get into the season."
"Lauren has really stepped up at second base. She was very good at the end of last season and her level of play has continued to improve," Williams said. "BR (Richardson) could be one of the biggest factors for us, depending on how she comes back from her injury. She's tough and has played through a lot.
"Gabby is covering shortstop and is doing a very good job. Losing a player like Aleah is tough, but Gabby has worked and improved and we're looking for big things from her."
"We feel pretty good about our experience in the outfield," Williams said. "Jenna seems to be getting stronger each time she's on the field and Ashley has stepped it up too. Holly has always been consistent and she is one of those players that make good plays on a regular basis.
"It's early and we still have a lot of work to do, but we're coming along at every position. We'll find out more in the next few days."
The Lady Hawks open the season on Wednesday with a doubleheader at Spring Hill. On Friday and Saturday, Huntingdon will play in the Methodist Tournament.
"Spring Hill is always competitive and is a good team to open the season with," Williams said. "That doubleheader along with the Methodist tournament will test us to start the season. We'll see where we are and what we need to do to be competing at the level we want to be."