This year, the Wayne State softball team hopes to build on their 2016 season, in which they recorded the second highest single-season win total in school history and advanced to the NCAA Division II Midwest Super Regionals.
Last year, the Warriors went 50-10, captured the GLIAC regular season and postseason titles and hosted the Midwest Super Regionals before being eliminated by Grand Valley State University.
The Warriors enter the 2017 season ranked 10th in the NFCA Division II Preseason Coaches Poll, and were picked to finish second behind GVSU in the GLIAC Preseason Coaches Poll.
The Warriors lost five starters from last year's team, highlighted by the departure of All-American third baseman Jade McGarr, who hit .406 and drove in a team high 46 runs last season.
Wayne State returns 12 players from last year's team, including reigning NFCA Division II National Player of the Year Lyndsay Butler, junior outfielder Kristen Lucas and sophomore shortstop Hannah McClounie.
Also returning to the team this season are senior centerfielder Allie Buchanan and junior second baseman/left fielder Kylie Barrett. When asked about the goals for the team this season, both players mentioned making a deep postseason run.
"We definitely want to make it to the [Division II] World Series again," Buchanan said. "We were there my freshman year and it was amazing. This year, it would be nice to go and the end result would be to win it all for sure."
Barrett added that pulling through all the way to the end is one of the team's goals this season.
"This year, one of our goals is to finish strong in the postseason. A big part of it is the mental aspect, too. Everyone gets tired, but we want to win, and we want to make it far, so this year, we have to make sure that we keep our foot on the gas pedal at the end of the season too."
Now in his 36th season as head coach, Gary Bryce will begin the season, seven wins away from becoming the all time wins leader in Division II, passing Bloomsburg University head coach Jan Hutchinson.
Bryce said it's been a team effort.
"If you have a chance to win more games than anyone in Division II, obviously it's an honor, but that doesn't happen without the players," he said.
Bryce also said he gives credit to his long-time assistant coach Pat Kent for his success throughout the years.
"Anytime you have continuity in your coaching staff, you're gonna have some success, and we've been fortunate to be successful," he said. "She was a heck of a coach. If I should be fortunate to pass her by, I would passing up a great coach."
The Warriors started their season off at the NFCA Leadoff Classic in Clearwater, Florida on Feb. 10. The team went 2-3 in their five games including an 0-2 loss to Valdosta State ranked 13.
WSU begins GLIAC play on March 25, and play their first home game at the newly renamed Gary Bryce Field on April 1 vs. Ferris State University at 1 p.m.