One of Wayne State’s most successful athletic programs in recent years enters 2019 in unchartered territory.

Instead of beginning the season with a top-tier ranking in the NFCA Preseason Poll, WSU softball enters the season with lowered expectations.

After a 10-game winning streak, the Warriors struggled in April, dropping six of their final eight games and finishing the season with a 24–25 record — the team’s worst since 2005.

Head coach Gary Bryce said he did not expect the team to finish how they did last season.

“If I knew all the reasons why, maybe I would have pushed the right buttons and we would’ve had a different outcome,” Bryce said.

Bryce said there are plenty of takeaways for returning players to take away from the previous season.

“I hope they took away the fact that you have to play as a team, you have to have leaders (and) you have to have people do the right things,” Bryce said.

Three of the Warriors top run producers — senior third baseman Hannah McClounie, junior catcher/first baseman Brooke Turkalj and sophomore outfielder Bryanna Kressler — are returning to the field.

Kressler won Freshman of the Year and was voted First Team All-GLIAC last season, as she posted a .376 batting average and drove in 33 runs. Bryce said in addition to her defensive skills, Kressler is very capable of being a good hitter.

“She’s a really good ballplayer,” Bryce said. “She can probably play anywhere on the field and do a really good job. She’s probably a D-1 player defensively. She’s got a cannon and I think that probably helped her win Freshman of the Year.”

Senior Megan Guitar enters the season as WSU’s top pitcher. Sophomore Presly Buchanan and freshman Paige Ameel are expected to see time in the circle.

One of the keys to success for WSU this season will be improving their play in close games. Last season WSU lost 15 games that were decided by three runs and posted a 4-10 record in one-run games.

WSU opens its season Feb .8 in the NFCA Leadoff Classic with games against West Chester University and Eckerd College. The Warriors’ home schedule begins Mar. 20 versus Ferris State.

Matt Williams is sports editor of The South End. He can be reached at Photo courtesy of WSU Athletics.