SPRING VALLEY, WI - New coaches bring a new sense of hope and new attitudes, new way of doing things and new ideas. It is a change and that is exactly what first year head coach Hannah Zurn is stressing to the Spring Valley softball team this year.
“There are three words that I am stressing this year; Change, Attitude and Effort,” said Zurn. “I have told the girls over and over again, that this year is going to be a year full of change. There is nothing we can do about the past but learn from it and change. It is water under the bridge. We all need to change together and create a solid foundation."
Zurn continued, "The second and third words go hand in hand. The only thing you can control is your attitude and your effort. Having a positive attitude is going to be essential for the team. Our upper classmen need to become role models and step into leadership roles. Effort; I have never seen any of these girls play before. They are all on equal playing fields. The only person who can prove to their team and themselves that they deserve to be one of the 10 come season play, is them. In order to do this, they need to give their best effort every day.”
Zurn is taking the helm of a program that won just two games last year and none the year before with a relatively young squad. Most of those young players are now seniors and ready to make a jump on improving.
The squad returns their two lone All-Conference selections from last year in senior Ally Lee (2nd team) and junior Tessa Cipriano (honorable mention), as well as senior pitcher Grace Larson, senior second baseman Katy Schreiber, and junior centerfielder Gabby Stevens, all of whom Zurn is leaning on to take on leadership roles in her first head coaching job.
“I think Stevens and Larson are keys for us this year,” Zurn said. “Stevens is going to be an essential key to the outfield and lineup this year and Larson will lead some of the younger players stepping up in pitching in how to do things, how to give that effort that we need.”
One of those younger players may be freshman Kristine Miller that Zurn has noticed.
“She has been working a lot off season to get ready for the upcoming season,” said Zurn. “She is going to add speed and a variety of pitches. She has a great role model in Grace Larsen, to look up to and following in her footsteps being new to the conference”
Cipriano led the team in batting last year with a .378 average and Lee was second on the team with a .327 clip at the plate. Cipriano and Stevens led the team defensively with 25 and 23 put outs each (respectively) in the field.
Zurn doesn’t have a lineup in place yet with just one week of practice under her belt, but plans to use the first few non-conference games as proving grounds for all the players to decide on who will play where and when.
“The first couple games, being non-conference, my plan is to mix it up and try to find the perfect set off girls to be successful on the team,” Zurn said. “This way it allows girls to show their ability. Fans will have to come to find out what is going to work for us this year and see who decides to show those three words the best.”
The coach has set high expectations for the girls this year.
“I know what they are capable of doing, they just have to believe in each other and themselves. My expectations are not about wins or losses, it’s about our performance and the standards we hold each other to on and off the field,” she said. “I am hoping the Cardinals will place in the top half of the conference and make a statement that we are here to compete.”
Zurn would know a thing or two about competing; she spent the last four years as an assistant in the youth program in Stillwater and played for four years on the UW-River Falls softball team. She has been a lifelong player.
“I started playing softball when I was 6 years old and started playing competitively when I was 10. I started Varsity when I was an 8th grader at Blaine High School which made me a five year letter recipient,” she said when asked about her playing days. “ When I was 15 years old, I joined an elite team out of Eagan, MN called the MN Stars as an outfielder. As I got older and started looking at colleges, softball has always been my world and everything else in my life revolved around it. However, the summer before my senior year of High School, I blew out my knee and within the year, I had 3 knee surgeries. It changed the way I played as a softball player physically and mentally. I decided to focus on school and went to University of Wisconsin-River Falls. I played all 4 years for the UWRF Falcons and got my bachelors degree in Secondary Education Broad Field Social Studies.”
She is from Ham Lake, MN and went to Blaine High School in Blaine, MN