Raiders women’s softball finds redemption this season

May 13, 2018

For new coach Amber Coburn, anything that could go wrong did before the season was half over.

The season started with just enough players to call a team. Then, one-by-one the players either got hurt or life got in the way. Thankfully, other players were able to join the team – but the roster never got over the required 10.

“The biggest challenge being a new coach is coming in to (train) athletes that you didn’t recruit and then putting that team together with very few athletes,” Coburn said.

Natalie Vollandt is one of those players recruited by previous coach Mark Edmonston. Vollandt is a pitcher and first base player and played under Edmonston for several years before coming to Pierce. Edmonston was the deciding factor for Vollandt to play for Pierce. Her mom, Kellee, and the family dog, Bentley, have followed the team all season.

Debbie Denbrook / Staff Photos
Riley Reyes-Redhair prepares to connect with the ball.

“Other four-year schools were looking at her. I suggested that she go play for “E” (that’s what we called him) for two years, get your prerequisites done. She’s not ready to give it up yet,” Kellee Vollandt said.

Another factor the team faced: games are double-headers with no extra players. Any injury meant they were done.

“That’s what’s challenging when you have only 10 athletes, 2 pitchers. That’s our challenge, when somebody is getting hurt or sore or tired, that’s our biggest challenge of how many players to fit into a game,” said Coburn.

It is hard enough to get a mix of seasoned players vs. green players to play as a team. Other teams they were competing against have been able to play as a team the whole season. The season was about half over before the team started coming together.

When the Raiders played the Bellingham Bulldogs on April 20, the players were starting to show the pressure.

“The last few games have been a struggle. We are short on players midseason. Girls getting hurt, girls getting tired, just trying to piece it together,” Coburn said.

But their spirit is undefeatable. Despite the challenges, Coburn said the team is in good standing to be in the playoffs in Spokane. As of April 30, the team is in last place in its conference.

“This team has it, we have the talent. We stay competitive. How exciting it would be for the sophomores to finish their season up and for the freshman their first season to make it there, my first year as a coach, it would be exciting to make it,” she said.

Freshman centerfielder Michaela Houglane signed on last year under Edmonston, too. Coming together as a cohesive unit with new players in the middle of the season has not been easy, she said.

“It’s been challenging just because you’re having to work with new people constantly. You don’t know them, you don’t know their styles as well and then people leave and you get attached. It’s sad because it is a very team-oriented sport,” she said.

Coburn’s optimism is felt by the team’s potential.

“I believe in this team. I believe in them a lot. There is a lot of mental challenges, as well as physical. This team is very much in their heads. But we do have a good chance at the playoffs, keep getting better every day. It is just a matter of coming together as one, working together,” she said.

Debbie Denbrook / Staff Photos
Michaela Hougland slides into second base.

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