Julie Cupps and Jessie Gripka are proven leaders and return after a strong junior year. Cupps was an All-District first team choice as shortstop, and Gripka earned All-District first team recognition at second base. Gripka also garnered first team All-Big 8 honors for her play last season.
Another returning starter who will be key to the Ladycat success this fall is junior Brittany Vollenweider. She was an All-Big 8 honorable choice at pitcher and first base.
Vollenweider will be the Ladycats' #1 pitcher this fall. Morgan Still, a sophomore, will also share pitching duties if she can recover from an early injury.
Returning letterwinners include: junior Britney Gatley, first base; junior Tracy Dolis, catcher and designated hitter; junior Gabby LeCompte, catcher and outfield; sophomore Jessie Meadows, outfield; and sophomore Dakota Bowman, infield.
Among the top prospects are Annie Coupland at infield and Courtney Beagle in the outfield. Both Coupland and Beagle are sophomores.
"We have some strong returning starters, but how well we do overall will be greatly determined by how well some of our juniors and some sophomores step up to fill voids in specific positions," said Coach Cox. "We are looking to fill voids at the catcher position, third base and outfield."
Cox, who is assisted by Randy Robertson, said they are also hoping to see the team improve offensively, especially in clutch situations.
"We need to increase our overall batting average, especially in two-and-out situations or with runners in scoring position," said Cox.
When assessing competition in the Big 8 this season, Cox said Seneca and Carl Junction are probably the conference favorites. She also expects Monett to be strong, because the Lady Cubs will be led this season by Brittany Davis, one of the best pitchers in the area.
"We finished strong last year, earning second place in the district competition after being the fifth seed," said Cox. "It will be important for each player to understand the role that they have and how they can best help the team."
Putting team first is a persistent, and effective, theme in Cox's coaching strategy.
"So far, I have been impressed with the cohesiveness of our team and the overall work ethic," said Co. "This has been an enjoyable group to work with thus far. We are looking forward to a fun and successful season."
Other members of the 2006 Ladycat squad include: sophomores Ariel Abramovitz; Chelsea Moore, Melissa Moore, Samm Naegele, Anna Rashe and Taylor Rowley; and freshmen Chelsea Krallman, Devon Henderson, Mandi Massey, Kelsey Munoz, Bailey Staponski and Mandi Thompson.
The Ladycats open the 2006 season on the road with a game at Wheaton next Monday, Aug. 21. The team will compete in the Crowder Varsity Softball Festival on Aug. 25 and 26 and then have three more road games against East Newton, Miller and Monett on Aug. 24, 29 and 31.
Cassville opens at home on Sept. 5 when they host Seneca at the Aquatic Park softball field. All scheduled games begin at 4:30 p.m.