The UCA Bears softball team is picked to finish fourth in the Southland Conference by the Sports Information Directors (SID).
UCA finished last season with a 25-34 record, earning the sixth seed in the SLC Tournament.
The Bears received 81 points from the SIDs, behind the McNeese State University Cowgirls, the Northwestern State University Lady Demons and the Sam Houston State University Bearkats.
UCA is also expected to make a return to the SLC Tournament with the fifth seed behind NSU, MSU, SHSU and the Stephen F. Austin University Ladyjacks.
According to the coaches’ poll, the Bears are picked to finish fifth in the conference behind NSU, MSU, SHSU and SFA.
UCA had a home record of over .500 at 15-10, while the away record didn’t meet team expectations at 4-15.
The neutral site record was at 6-9.
Last season, UCA had a .266 batting average, while opponents hit a .295 batting average.
The Bears also had 261 runs and 39 home runs, while opponents had 300 runs and 54 home runs.
The Bears start out the 2015 season at the Louisiana-Lafayette Tournament on Feb. 6-8, returning home Feb. 10 to take on the University of Arkansas–Pine Bluff Lady Lions.
Senior pitcher Kylee Studioso has high expectations for this season, and the team is relentlessly chasing perfection.
“My expectations for this year are to win a conference championship,” she said. “We have a very talented group of ladies and this is the year that UCA softball can win a title. The freshmen add so much depth to our team. They are a very talented class of young ladies and they all can hit so well.”
After the LSU Tournament and UCA Tournament, the Bears start conference play against the University of Texas A&M–Corpus Christi March 6 at home.
The Bears looked to gain depth by adding five true freshmen to the team.
“This team is very talented and so close that a championship is what we expect out of the year and we won’t be satisfied with anything else,” Studioso said. “We are ‘relentlessly chasing perfection,’ as this is our quote for the year.”
Junior outfielder Sam Forest spoke on her expectations for this team this season and said that veteran leadership will play a role.
“We have a lot of older girls on the team this year who have a lot of experience,” she said. “We always have high expectations, but as for team goals we want to play together more as a team and to not let errors accumulate. We want to get better in all phases of the game.”
Forest said this year’s freshmen will help the team a lot.
“We suffered some injuries this past year, and so the freshman will be able to step up and fill some holes if they need to,” she said. “We also have a very deep lineup, meaning that our whole lineup can hit and can rely on the person behind them to get the job done. We are very confident going into the season and are excited to see what we accomplish. “
The first 23 games are teams not in the SLC and will help the team get ready for conference play, starting with TAMUCC March 6 at home.