Coyotes look to rebound to 1999 form after 29-34 softball season last year

Coyotes look to rebound to 1999 form after 29-34 softball season last year The 2001 season opens with promise for the South Dakota Coyotes women's softball team.

The Coyotes, who have had two winning seasons in the past three years, recorded a 29-34 mark a year ago. With the return of nine starters and a host of talented newcomers, South Dakota has the potential to make some noise in the North Central Conference in 2001.

According to sixth-year head coach Kim Zarling, South Dakota will be strong up the middle, feature several outstanding hitters including all-American Tiffany Davis, and highlight veteran pitching. But Zarling believes that team cohesiveness will be the telling factor of a Coyote team striving to reach the NCC's upper echelon.

And, Zarling likes what she has seen so far.

"They are playing together very well, understanding each other's strengths and weaknesses and showing great respect for each other," she said.

The Coyotes, who lost three starters and eight letterwinners from a year ago, return 10 letterwinners, including the nine starters. The Coyotes will be led by four senior co-captains, including Davis (C/3B, Hawarden, IA), NFCA second team all-region performer Jessica Bills (C/RF, Sioux Falls), Jaime Kremer (CF, Grand Junction, CO) and Melanie Robotham (SS, Seward, NE). Davis, Bills and Kremer are three-year starters while Robotham, a transfer from Nebraska-Kearney three years ago, has started two years at South Dakota.

Other returning starters include Julie MacRunnels (RF, Sioux Falls), Amie Mertens (2B, Ham Lake, MN), Tiffany Hopkins (3B, Cannon Falls, MN), Janice Alswager (P/SS, Columbus, NE) and Tiffany Hill (P, Sioux Falls).

"This season we have to set the tone by taking more risks on the bases, pressuring opponent's defenses, while increasing our aggressiveness at the plate," said Zarling. "I really feel that if we play to our potential we should finish in the top three in the conference. However, it is a very competitive conference. The key will be our ability to develop cohesiveness as a team. And, from what I have seen so far, things look good on this team. They are working as a unit and have set team goals without worrying about what they will do individually."

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