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by Kaylee Noborikawa, Sports editor

It’s the beginning of a new year and a new season as the HPU women’s softball team gets ready to hit the field on Feb. 3.

The Lady Sea Warriors are completing their pre-season training and preparing to start one of their most challenging seasons ever.

“ This year’s schedule is one of the toughest we ever put together,” said Head Coach Howard Okita. “Every game will be a challenge for our young ladies who are looking forward to having a great year.”

The 2007 schedule includes teams such as Cal. State-Stanislaus, which finished fifth in the West Regional; Valdosta State University, which reached the NCAA regional semifinals last year; and Dixie State College, which ended its 2006 season with a record of 30-8-2.

The HPU women’s softball team is coming off one of its most successful seasons in recent years. In 2006, the Lady Sea Warriors finished 27-20 and advanced to the NCAA Division II West Regionals held in Bakersfield, Calif. Unfortunately, their remarkable season came to an end after they lost to Humboldt State in the first round and Cal. State-Stanislaus the following day. It was the first time HPU reached the post-season regionals since 1999.

“ All of our returning starters and players have been working hard to help our team achieve an even better year than last year,” Okita said. “They are really pushing themselves and the rookies to be the best team that they can be,” he added.

There are 13 returning players from the 2006 team, including: infielders Nicole Riviera, Krystal Plunkett, Nicole Kalakau, Kara Wedemeyer, and Lehua Yap; outfielders Kellie Nishikida, Anuhea Young, Danielle Young, and Casey Taylor; pitchers Clerisse Lemke, Jessica Adolph, and Courtney Kessell; and utility player Puna Waiolama. Lemke, Wedemeyer, Yap, and Young are seniors.

Three 2006 starters were lost from the 2006 team: pitcher Dayna Berry left for personal reasons, infielder Lia Pedrina suffered a major back injury last season but will return as a team manager, and catcher/outfielder Jennifer Baron used up her four years of eligibility and will continue to assist the team as a graduate assistant coach.

“ We will lose [Jennifer’s] leadership on the field the most,” said Okita. “Every loss affects the team in some way, but you have to continue to do the best with what you have. Someone else will be given the opportunity to step-up and do the job.”

That “someone else” may be one of the seven new players Okita recruited for the upcoming season: freshmen Tajia Acierto, Kimberley Goo, Samantha Hopper, Sherise Musquiz, Laine Shikuma, and Casey Sugihara; and red-shirt sophomore Ciera Senas.

“ This year we will field a very talented and experienced team. As we found out in our fall season, we have a lot of depth in most positions,” Okita said.

“ We have two or three players competing for starting positions at each position this year. Our returning starters are fighting hard to keep their jobs in the starting lineup.”

The Lady Sea Warriors open their season Feb. 3 in an exhibition match against the Alumni team at the HPU field at 12 p.m., but the real action begins on Feb. 5 against the University of Arkansas-Monticello. The doubleheader against the Cotton Blossoms will start at 1 p.m. at the HPU field.


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