Friday, February 27, 2015

RECAP: Kristina Braxton Big Day Paces the Herd to Win Number 12

COLUMBIA, S.C.-- Timely hits and clutch at-bats is something Marshall Softball head coach Shonda Stanton has been looking for this season from her squad. Friday afternoon versus Tennessee State she got both in a 9-1 five-inning run-rule win to open the Carolina Classic.

Dave Myslenski/Kristina Braxton slams a hit for the Herd.
Kristina Braxton led the Herd with a 3-for-3 performance at the plate which included two singles, a double, 2 RBI and scoring the game-clinching run in the bottom of the fifth inning.

Both teams traded lead-off opportunities to open the contest only to come up short after the first inning. While the Tigers struggled to find an answer to Jordan Dixon, Braxton gave the Herd a 1-0 lead after smashing a two-out double off the wall in left field to score Kaitlin Lucas.

Marshall added two more runs in the third after Kaelynn Greene single through the hole to left before moving up to second on a fielding error by the left fielder. Greene swiped her ninth bag in as many attempts to move to third. Elicia D'Orazio walked to put runners at the corners to set up Stanton's aggressive approach on the bases.

Greene plated the Herd's second run of the game after Taylor Green's pitch got away from Tigers' catcher Lindsey Burgess which also allowed D'Orazio to move to third after moving up to second on the pitch. Lucas earned her second free pass of the game on another hit-by-pitch and was able to keep herself in a run-down long enough to allow D'Orazio to score for a 3-0 Marshall lead.

Tennessee State threatened in the fourth after a one-out double by Lauren Dreitlein and a walk to Joselynn Yates placed two runners on with only one out. Dixon earned the second out of the inning on an infield fly to D'Orazio but nearly allowed the Tigers to climb back into the contest on one swing of the bat by Cariona Hassell.

The freshman ripped a drive into the gap in left-center field only to have the rally shot down on a great play from Greene to end the inning.

Marshall responded again in the fourth after a one-out walk by Taylor McCord followed by a RBI single by Braxton, allowing pinch runner Jordan Colliflower to score from first for a 4-0 lead.

With Braxton delivering the clutch hits for the Herd, all Stanton was waiting for was the big hit to blow the game open.

She did not have to wait long as freshman Kylie Howard blasted a two-run homer to deep center giving Marshall a 6-0 lead. It was Howard's first career home run for the Herd. Morgan Zerkle continue the attack with an infield single but appeared to be stranded once again at second before Marshall received a reprieve on a coaching error by the Tigers.
Dave Myslenski/Kylie Howard sends one deep for the Herd.

D'Orazio initially ended the inning after grounding out to the Yates at third base only to return to the plate for another swing after the umpires learned that Yates had not been officially re-entered into the contest giving the Herd another scoring opportunity.

Zerkle took third on a wild pitch and scored on a RBI infield single by D'Orazio and a 7-0 lead after four complete.

However, the Tigers would not go away quietly as their patience at the plate earned back-to-back walks to open the fifth and chased Dixon from the circle. Brittanie Fowler entered the game in relief as Danica Gleason welcomed her to the game with a single to center to load the bases with no outs.

But as the Herd has been able to do much of the time this season, the defense would come through when it was needed the most. Courtney Gearalds sent a sharp liner up the middle only to have D'Orazio snag it for the first out then spin and tag Tayler Shimizo at second for the Herd's eighth double play of the season. Kailey Richard pushed across the first run for the Tigers after ripping a ball down the line into the left field corner for what appeared to be a two-out 2RBI double. However, after a Marshall appeal, Gleason was ruled out for missing second base which negated her run and would end the inning.
Dave Myslenski/Elicia D'Orazio applies a tag vs Auburn.

Lucas would lead off the home fifth with a four-pitch walk then moved up to second on a fielder's choice by McCord for the second out of the inning. But the hot-hitting Braxton smacked a hot chopper of the glove of the shortstop Hassell into center field for her second RBI of the game and an 8-1 Herd lead setting up Howard at the play for a chance to win it.

Howard collected her second hit of the game as she sent a ball up the middle for a single that sent Braxton over to third. After an errant throw from the center fielder skipped away from the Tigers' third baseman, Braxton trotted to the plate for a 9-1 Marshall win.

With the win Marshall continues to add to its best start in program history now at 12-3 as it awaits Charleston Southern and host South Carolina tomorrow afternoon with first pitch scheduled at 12:30 p.m.

NOTES: Dixon took over sixth place all-time for strikeouts as the sophomore recorded six in the win today pushing her total to 363. Dixon is now three shy of tying Natasha Johnson for fifth place. Zerkle is now three hits shy of 100 as a member of the Herd after the sophomore finished 1-for-2 in the contest. She also moved into eighth overall for stolen bases after swiping her 69th in the win.

Saturday's game with Charleston Southern will be the seventh meeting between the programs with the Buc's stealing a 3-2 win in eight innings in 2012. Marshall and South Carolina have met only once with the Herd knocking off the Gamecocks 8-5 in 1995.

Final Weekend of Non-Conference Play for Herd Softball

Marshall Softball has raced out to an 11-3 record to start this season and could have easily been 13-1 with a couple breaks against Towson and Auburn. So before we wrap up the final weekend of non-conference play, I give you a tidbits to hold you over until first pitch with Tennessee State later on today.

Give It Your Best Effort

Through its first 14 games, the Herd is out to the best start in school history. Marshall's best start was 10-3 during the 2010 season. Marshall's 10-1 start was also the best one-loss start in school history since the 8-1 start by the 1996 squad.

Catch Me If You Can

When a Marshall base runner gets on base, look fast or you may miss them. The Herd has swiped 52 stolen bases in 64 attempts this season including sophomore Morgan Zerkle with a team-leading 20. The 52 swipes lead Conference USA by 18 over Florida Atlantic. To put in perspective the dominance the Herd is having on the base paths, the top three spots in the category belongs to the Herd. Zerkle (21) lead the league followed by freshman Elicia D'Orazio (9) and junior Kaelynn Greene (8) rounding out the top three.

The Power Of Z

There is no secret that Marshall goes as Zerkle goes. Its no secret the Preseason All-Conference Team member is a terror on the base paths, but what she brings to the plate is what separates her from the rest. While she leads CUSA in hits (29), the manner those hits have been collected are as different as white and black. A slapper by trade, Zerkle has orchestrated several perfectly placed bunts that left the defense shaking its head as the speedster crosses first base. But Zerkle offers another weapon at the plate that many slappers don't consistently do, she can drive the ball into the gaps and run for days. Zerkle owns one of four Marshall home runs this season but its the only one that did not fly over the fence. Instead, it just flew over the outfielders head and rolled to the wall in center field. When Zerkle paces this team at the top, Marshall is a tough out top to bottom.

Marshall Tamed The Tigers

Flip the calendar back one year to Marshall vs Auburn and the results from the 19-5 five-inning loss to the Tigers may shock you. Especially considering the Herd nearly knocked off the No. 14 ranked Tigers last week in Tampa before falling 5-4. The difference in the two contests, defense. Marshall had as many errors (7) in that contest as it did hits while giving up a season high 19 runs. Although the Tigers picked up their loss to Dartmouth prior to playing the Herd, Marshall pushed in the seven-inning contest with a chance to tie or win in the bottom frame only to come up short. While a win would have been huge for the Herd, the ability to erase a 5-1 deficit after three innings speaks volumes about this team's character.

A Quick Peak At The Carolina Classic

Marshall has a great opportunity to not only continue to build on its hot start to the season before heading to Miami next weekend to begin conference play, but also send a message to the voters that this team is for real. Marshall has four games this weekend in the Classic with the final two being pivotal in sending its message. The Herd opens the event against Tennessee State Friday afternoon in what will be only the fifth meeting of the schools. The Tigers earned their only win over the Herd in that 2009 meeting with a 9-8 eighth-inning walk-off walk.

Saturday afternoon brings the Herd's lone double-header of the weekend with games against Charleston Southern and host South Carolina. Marshall last faced Charleston Southern in 2012 which resulted in the Buc's only win over the Herd in six attempts. The Herd fell 3-2 in eight innings in that contest. The Buc's head coach Shane Winkler served as an assistant for the Herd from 2006-08. His club enters the event 9-4 after splitting with Tennessee Tech last time out.

The second game of the twin bill pits Marshall and South Carolina in only the second meeting between the programs. The Herd bettered the Gamecocks in the 1995 with an 8-5 win. The Gamecocks enter the event 12-4 fresh off a 3-1 win over Western Carolina Thursday night in a game that pitchers Julie Sarratt and Nickie Blue combined to one-hit the Catamounts. South Carolina has yet to lose at home this season.

In the final day of the event for the Herd, Sunday morning brings another ranked opponent in No. 24 South Alabama. The Jaguars enter the event 11-3 and own a win in the only meeting between the teams after knocking off the Herd 1-0 last season in Boca Raton. The Jags have won their last three games.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Herd Softball ECU Pirate Clash Weekend Wrap Up 2/15/15

GREENVILLE, N.C.—Hot off a 5-0 start last week at the Charleston Challenge, Marshall Softball took its undefeated record to the East Carolina Pirate Clash this past weekend. Marshall finished the event with a record of 3-1 with wins over host ECU, Bucknell and East Tennessee State while suffering its first loss of the season to Towson.

“I was very proud of the team this weekend,” Marshall Softball head coach
Shonda Stanton said. “ECU was the first game this year that we’ve had to battle back from being down and it was great to see those seventh inning clutch hits to come through for the win.”

Marshall opened the event with host East Carolina and had to battle through a challenge it had yet to face this season, losing. Entering the event, the Herd had yet to trail in a game but found itself down 2-0 after the first inning to the Pirates after they sent eight batters to the plate to start the contest. 

Herd ace Jordan Dixon struggled through the first two innings issuing three hits, a walk and plunking two before settling in for what proved to a record breaking night for the sophomore.

Marshall found its first answer for the 2-0 deficit in the fifth inning after Kristina Braxton delivered a bases-loaded pinch hit single to score Kylie Howard cutting the lead to 2-1. ECU responded in the bottom of the frame with a solo shot by Pirate shortstop Casey Alcorn making it 3-1.

Dave Myslenski/ Elicia D'Orazio
steps to the plate.
The Herd was down to its final strike twice in the top of the seventh but a RBI triple from Elicia D’Orazio brought Morgan Zerkle to the plate followed by a game-tying RBI single by Shaelynn Braxton that scored D’Orazio to tie the contest at three.

Marshall took the lead for good in the top of the ninth after Rebecca Myslenski scored the fourth run of the game for a 4-3 lead. However, the biggest play of the game possibly came on a stolen base attempt of Zerkle. After swiping third, Zerkle never slowed after an errant throw by the catcher allowed her to score to give the Herd a 5-3 lead.

ECU would threaten in the bottom of the ninth after a two-out single cut the lead to 5-4 but a groundball to Howard at short would end the Pirate rally giving the Herd its sixth win of the season.
Dave Myslenski/ Jordan Dixon works
in the circle for the Herd.
After a rough start to the contest, Dixon finished with a career-high 16 strikeouts in the winning effort.

Day two of the event pitted Marshall and Towson in the first ever meeting between the programs. The Herd jumped out to an early 1-0 lead on the Tigers after Zerkle led off the contest with a single, stole second, advanced to third on a ground out and scored on a RBI single by Shaelynn Braxton. Towson went hitless into the fourth inning before a two-out bunt single by Missy McCormick gave the Tigers their first baserunner of the game. However, another solid outing by Dixon limited the Tigers opportunities after she retired eight batters via the strikeout through four innings.

Marshall held the lead into the fifth but Towson found a spark in the home half of the inning after Holiday Cahill left the yard to tie the contest followed by three consecutive singles and a RBI double and a 3-1 Towson lead.

The Herd threatened in the top of the seventh inning with three singles by Katalin Lucas, Emily Cooper and Zerkle loaded the bases with one out. Taylor McCord dribbled a ball of the bat to the third baseman that came home to cut down Lucas’ scoring effort for the second out. With the bases still loaded, D’Orazio sent a hot chopper back to the pitcher in the circle and with a quick flip to first, Marshall picked up its first loss of the season.

“Honestly we were a little flat against Towson and offensively we didn’t get our sticks going like we needed to for a win,” Stanton said. “I like that we had the bases loaded in the seventh but couldn’t get the clutch hit we needed for the win.”

Marshall looked to bounce back Saturday morning against Bucknell after the Bison dropped its first game of the season Friday night to ETSU. The Herd jumped on the Bison in the first with back-to-back infield singles by Zerkle and Kaelynn Greene and took a 2-0 lead after Shaelynn Braxton sent a 2-RBI double into the gap in left field. Lucas followed with a RBI double of her own to score Braxton then scored on a RBI single from Cooper for a 4-0 lead.

Bucknell answered in the bottom frame of the first after a two-out single from Cydnee Sanders led to back-to-back Herd errors and two unearned Bison runs.  The Bison continued to attack Dixon in the circle but stellar defense halted the rally efforts. D’Orazio opened the inning with a backhand snag on a ball up the middle only to have Shaelynn Braxton make a diving stop and cut the runner down at first on a throw from her knees. The infield duo earned the approval of the ace in the circle.

“It gives me so much confidence and motivation when they make plays like that,” Dixon said. “Honestly its really fun to watch them make those plays.”

The Herd fourth started with three singles by D’Orazio, Zerkle and Greene putting the pressure back on the Bison hurler in the circle. Myslenski pushed across the fifth run of the game after earning a bases loaded walk to score D’Orazio and Zerkle would tag on a Lucas sac fly for a 6-2 lead.

Falecia Collier/ Morgan Zerkle ready
to steal another base.
But this day belonged to Morgan Zerkle. With McCord and D’Orazio reaching to start the fifth, the CUSA Preseason All-Conference Team member ripped a ball over the head of the drawn in outfielders for a three-run inside the park homerun. Cooper made it a 10-2 Herd lead on a RBI single to left to score Lucas.

Zerkle said the deep ball in the gap was a plan set in motion from Stanton.

“We had talked about it before the at bat and how close the outfield was pulled in,” Zerkle said. “It was good to have a plan in place and be able to go out and execute.”

Bucknell added a run in the bottom of the fifth but would get no closer as Marshall secured an 11-3 six-inning mercy rule win. Dixon earned her seventh win of the season after fanning 11 Bison hitters without issuing a walk. Zerkle finished 5-for-5 scoring four runs, driving in three RBI and swiping three bases.

“After beating out the throw on a swinging bunt in her fifth at-bat I just looked across at her and laughed,” said Stanton.  “She (Zerkle) is that good and gifted and this game is so much about what’s between the ears and having the confidence in what you’re doing. Right now, she has that and it’s fun to watch.”

Marshall closed out the event against ETSU as Zerkle picked up where she left off with Bucknell, picking up her eighth consecutive hit to open the game. Zerkle stole second and third and scored on a throwing error by the Bucs' catcher for a 1-0 Herd lead.

Marissa Bethke earned the start in the final game of the event but was lifted before finishing the first after walking the bases loaded. Brittanie Fowler entered the game in relief for the freshman Bethke and pitched out of the first-inning jam behind the first of many spectacular defensive plays by Howard at short.

Dave Myslenski/ Brittanie Fowler works
in the circle for the Herd.
“I was really excited to get into the game and even though there were runners on I wasn’t too worried about it,” said Fowler. “I have a really strong defense behind me so I wasn’t too worried about getting out of the jam.”

Marshall added runs in the second and fourth innings grabbing a 3-0 lead over ETSU but it’s was the defensive production by the freshman Howard that stole the show.

Howard robbed Danielle Knoetze of a sure hit after fielding a ball deep in the hole to end the third, picked a hot chopper off the dirt in the fifth, recorded all three outs in the sixth but saved her best play of the season for the final inning.

After issuing a leadoff walk in the seventh, Fowler turned the ball over to Dixon to close out the contest. Dixon had to worry about the leadoff walk for only one batter after Howard closed out her defensive display with a 6-3 double play on a hard-hit ball destined for center field.

“I’ve just been trying to focus defensively since I haven’t been able to get things going at the plate,” Howard said. “Whenever Fowler is pitching I am more alert up the middle because she forces a lot of ground ball that way and I just was in the right spot to make the play.

Dave Myslenski/ Howard readies to field
a ball for the Herd.
Stanton complimented the 2012 West Virginia Gatorade Player of the Year saying how important of a piece of the defensive puzzle Howard has become.

“She (Howard) is an incredible athlete as she has the speed, range and the strong arm at her position,” Stanton said. “She made every play today we needed her to make and how nice for Fowler to finally have people behind her to make plays.”

Fowler earned her first win of the season while Dixon picked her first save. 

While Fowler worked to keep the Buc's off balance throughout the contest, it was one pitch that Stanton said was crucial in the performance.

“Coach Bell did a nice job of mix in that change-up today and it was on,” Stanton said. “Fowler made them look silly on some pitches and if she can keep her pitches down in the zone like she did today, she will contribute to the program significantly this season.”

Marshall is out to its best start since 2010 when the Herd started 7-2. Moving to 8-1 this season, the Herd has achieved its eighth win this season in 18 fewer games than during the 2014 campaign.

The Herd heads to Tampa, FL this week for the USF Wilson DeMarini Tournament. Marshall opens the event with Dartmouth and USF Friday and No. 17 Auburn Saturday followed by two more games still to be determined.

Opening Thoughts on Herd Softball

This started as a football blog but what the hey, its spring time. Well almost as it certainly feels like it should be since NCAA baseball and softball have kicked off their seasons. This blog will focus mostly on Herd diamond sports but every now and again I get a wild tangent I like to discuss. Feel free to comments on the posts and ask questions. I'll do my best to answer these to the best of my ability.
Falecia Collier/Herd Team gathers before the game.

So without further delay, let's play ball!

Marshall Softball is rolling after a 3-1 weekend in Greenville, N.C. at the East Carolina Pirate Snow Invitational and is 8-1 overall this season. Here is the craziest part of this year's team, they have had one, maybe two games they have hit the ball to the expectations. How is the Herd 8-1 you ask, lights out pitching by sophomore Jordan Dixon and spectacular defense every game. Do not read into the shortcoming of the offensive expectations as several players are off to a hot start, but the big hit and more importantly, the timely hits have been far and few between. Either way Coach Shonda Stanton's club is out to one of its best starts since she took over the program.

Through the first two weekend's, Marshall's 3-1 loss to Towson is the only blemish on the resume. But how can a team that took 27 games last season to capture eight wins do it in only nine games this season? One word easily answers that question, defense.

Falecia Collier/Dixon works in the circle for the Herd.
Everything starts in the circle for this team and the lady leading the way is Dixon. After picking up CUSA Co-Pitcher of the Week and College Sports Madness National Pitcher of the Week after her performances in week one, Dixon has solidified her spot as the ace for this Herd squad and this season she has backup. Junior Brittanie Fowler picked up her first win Saturday after working 5.2 innings of two-hit ball and appears to offer a solid number two in the rotation behind Dixon.

However, that is just the beginning as this season the defense resembles that of the 2013 team that appeared in the NCAA Regionals in Lexington, KY giving the pitching staff some much needed backup.

Falecia Collier/ Braxton slides into 3rd.
Locking down third base for the Herd is Shaelynn Braxton. Making the transition from the outfield to the hot corner last season, the junior has flashed the leather while daring runners to try to beat out the throw as she tosses darts across the diamond. Few balls get past her into the outfield and she is not afraid to wear a ball to keep it in the infield. Although Braxton has been a bit sluggish out of the gate at the plate, her defense has been solid.

Dave Myslenski/Howard works at
short for the Herd.
Falecia Collier/ D'Orazio fields
at 2nd for the Herd.
A look up the middle of the field finds something a bit unusual for a young team with early success, two freshman. Kylie Howard has become a rock at shortstop and Elicia D'Orazio is nothing short of amazing with her speed and range at second. The frosh combo appears to have played as teammates for years as their timing and communication is on point. Howard has a great step to the ball and can make a strong throw from the hole while turning the double play with sheer precision. Meanwhile, D'Orazio is a ground ball pitcher's dream as anything hit to the right side will typically find its way into her glove. Both Howard and D'Orazio have great range allowing the outfield to play a step or two deeper than normal without being out of position of a loopy liner or lazy fly ball. The duo's instincts are fun to watch and they have one speed they know how to play, all out. D'Orazio crashed head first into a fence Thursday night while trying to rob an out on a ball trying to get out of play and made a diving catch for a lazy fly ball just outside the circle last weekend for the final out of the inning. In a position Stanton has been looking for consistency, its safe to say the foundation of the infield starts here and the pieces are concreted in place.

Dave Myslenki/ Myslenksi
ready at 1st for the Herd.
First base for the Herd has given Stanton several options without sacrificing defensive production as she has three options available to rotate at the position and the offensive production of any of the three could be the deciding fac
tor. Rebecca Myslenski has shown to be the front runner for the Herd after bouncing back from a knee injury that slowed her last season. The sophomore has anchored the position with few mistakes while adding a nice stick to Stanton's lineup. While she works to learn the intricate details of the position, she has been rewarded with great defense to back her up after a miscue. Not to mention her presence at the plate has been a much needed stick in the bottom half of the order.

Providing backup to Myslenski are Alyssa Woodrum and Raquel Escareno. Woodrum has appeared in two games while working in pinch-hit duties in others. Escareno has worked at both first base and right field but has found herself on the outside looking in due to a quiet start at the plate. After a slow start at the plate in Charleston, S.C., the junior found some pop off the bat to open the tournament at ECU.

Dave Myslenski/ Lucas touches home
after going yard in Charleston, S.C.
Stanton finds a unique problem for a coach to have when placing a player behind the dish, two solid options in junior Katalin Lucas and freshman Taylor McCord. Lucas is a catcher by trade but also works at shortstop for the Herd. Behind the dish, Lucas receives and blocks the ball with precision and can snap throw to any base from her knees forcing opposing runners to think twice before leaking away from a bag. Lucas also gives the Herd a power bat in the lineup as she settled in the cleanup spot in Greenville. Lucas has great patience at the plate and seldom chases bad pitch out of the zone. She owns the only long ball for the Herd through the first nine games.

Falecia Collier/ McCord looks for
the sign. 
Giving Lucas a reliable backup behind the dish is McCord. As she makes the adjustment to the collegiate level, she brings a cannon of an arm to the table that has already cut down three runners this season. The frosh works well with all three Herd pitchers and provides Stanton future at the catcher position while offering production now.

Falecia Collier/ Zerkle with a bunt hit for the Herd.
The speed of Marshall's outfield may at times make seem as if there are four players in the grass rather than three. The Herd outfield contains two CUSA All-Preseason Players in Morgan Zerkle and Kaelynn Greene along with senior co-captain Emily Cooper who has come on strong to start the season. Zerkle anchors the Herd outfield in center field and provides gap-to-gap speed. The sophomore is coming off an unbelievable weekend at ECU including a 5-for-5 performance in the win over Bucknell which included four singles, a three-run inside the park homerun, four runs and three stolen bases. Zerkle paces the team batting .656 this season and wreaks havoc on the bases anytime she gets on.

Dave Myslenski/ Greene
at the plate.
Greene has moved into left this season in the outfield but has had little trouble making the move. Much like Zerkle, she game cover the left-center gap with ease while expanding her range deep into foul territory. Greene provides a powerful one-two punch with Zerkle at the top of the order for the Herd and poses the speed to leg out even the shortest bunts that trickle into fair territory. When Greene and Zerkle occupy the base paths at the same time, opposing pitchers are limited on the pitch selections because of the speed factor by the duo.

Starting her senior season as a utility player for the Herd, Cooper earned a spot in the lineup card with a solid performance in the Charleston Challenge. Cooper continued her hot start in Greenville adding a multi-resourceful stick at the plate. Mix that with the speed she adds gives Stanton another tool for her aggressive style of play on the bases.
Dave Myslenski/ Cooper fires up
the team after a hit.

With everything mentioned above its hard to believe that Stanton could have anything left, but as the late night infomercial says, "But waits there's more!"

Senior Kristina Braxton provides Stanton a solid option in the outfield and a left-handed stick off the bench to pinch hit. Braxton does a great job providing senior leadership in a utility role for this team and while bring gap-to-gap power to the plate.

Step inside Stanton's stable of utility players and one will find freshmen Jordan Calliflower and Madi Marshall who offer good speed as pinch runners off the bench. Stanton also has Marissa Bethke inside the circle who is trying to find her way along in her first season with the Herd. The righty has Dixon like pop on her delivery but has struggled to find the zone in her two outings this season. Should she find that command, Stanton may feel like Christmas came early this year with three viable options inside the circle.

Dave Myslenski/ Fowler
works in the circle.
Stanton's club is off to its best start since 2010 after starting 7-2 through the first nine games. Coming off a 28-31 season after getting out to a 2-8 start in 2014, Stanton has the pitching and defense the 2014 team lacked. However, the offensive production has not met the expectations of the 16-year coach who is only 12 wins from 500 in her career. This includes appearances in the CUSA Championship game in each of the past three seasons, including a NCAA Regional berth after defeating Houston for the CUSA title in 2013.

This team has All-American talent planted right here in Huntington and wearing green and white. Stanton has shown she is not afraid to take on any level of talent with her non-conference scheduling each season in preparation for another run in May in hopes of another championship. But this season, expectations are much higher for Stanton, calling this team "special" several times this season. Stanton has said several times this season the most difficult thing for her and the staff is properly managing this team with all the talent that is available. Sounds like a great problem to have considering 12 of the 21 members are underclassmen.

Sounds like Stanton has poured a solid foundation to not only take CUSA by storm but the nation as well. The expectations are there now its time to answer the call.

Starting 8-1 this season sounds like a nice hello.