Teamwork, experience to be key for Timberwolves
Tualatin, with new coach Jenna Wilson, looks to soar in Pacific Conference action again
TUALATIN - The Tualatin High School softball team has many familiar faces back from last year's squad that claimed the Pacific Conference title.
But there's a new face - of sorts - that will be leading the way for the Timberwolves.
Jenna Wilson, a former standout first baseman for Tualatin, takes over as the Wolves' head coach this season - and she likes what she sees so far.
'The team is coming together as a complete unit,' said Wilson, who played college softball at Portland State University. 'The girls work well together and truly enjoy being on the same field. We have a mature team that has set goals for their season. Our players have worked very hard during preseason to perform at their highest level during the season.'
Tualatin has a strong group of returnees from last year's squad that went 16-10 on the season while placing first in the Pacific Conference standings with a 12-3 league mark.
Among the returning players is senior pitcher MG Bywater.
Last year, Bywater not only earned first-team All-Pacific Conference honors, but the right-hander was also named the league's Pitcher of the Year.
Junior Jordyn Skinner also returns at pitcher for Tualatin, giving the Wolves a strong one-two punch in the circle.
Behind the plate, Tualatin has another returnee in junior Emilee Symonds. Last year, Symonds was a second-team all-league selection as a utility player and she was an honorable mention pick at catcher.
In the infield, Tualatin has another returning first-team all-league selection in senior shortstop Shelby Burke.
Junior returnee Taryn O'Neill, who was a second-team all-league pick last year, will be back at first base.
Sophomore Maddie Powelson, who was an honorable mention all-league pick last year, returns to play at third base.
The Timberwolves have a trio of returnees in the outfield in juniors Morgan Windhorn and Kourtney Hall and sophomore Britta Hall.
The speedy Britta Hall and Windhorn were both second-team all-league selections last year.
Another Tualatin outfielder, sophomore Shelby Doering, saw some varsity action last year, going 5-for-5 in one early-season contest. Doering could see time as a designated hitter.
Newcomers to the Timberwolf varsity roster include freshman second baseman Beth Fanger and sophomore Carrissa Grouell.
It all adds up to what the proven Wolves hope is a successful season.
'This year's team has experience,' Wilson said. 'With only one freshman and nine returners, they get over the butterflies and just play the game. The team has a lot of speed, while our stronger girls make up for that with their bats.'
The squad also looks to have a strong leadership quality.
'Our seniors, Shelby Burke and MG Bywater, lead by example,' Wilson said. 'They are not the 'rah-rah' kind of players, but rather have a quiet confidence that the rest of the team strides to achieve. Varsity veterans like Emilee Symonds and Morgan Windhorn provide more vocal support on the field, keeping the team motivated. Our catcher, Emilee knows how to control the game tempo - she is always there to bring the team together.'
The Wolves could be facing a tough task in looking to defend its league title as Glencoe, which won the Class 5A state title last year, and Century, the Class 5A runner-up a year ago, have joined the Pacific Conference, along with Hillsboro.
'The league is strong,' Wilson said. 'It is too early to tell where the team fits in, but our girls will compete. We still have a lot of work to do before the season, but with the way things have been going thus far, I look forward to watching them grow together as a team.'
Tualatin, which played at the Spring Break Classic in Medford earlier this week, will be back in action Monday when it hosts South Salem in a non-league game starting at 4:30 p.m. On Tuesday, the Wolves will travel to Aloha for a 4:30 p.m. non-league contest. On Wednesday, the Wolves will travel to Gresham for a 4:30 p.m. tilt.