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Marion County native Holly Smith, entering her ninth year as head coach of the St. Catharine Patriots softball team, welcomes back what is arguably her strongest group of returnees.
The Patriots are looking to improve on last year’s 25-33 record that included an 8-16 Mid-South Conference slate. After enduring a stretch where they lost 17 of 19 games, the Patriots played their best ball late in the year when they won seven of their last 11 games that included a third place finish in the Mid-South Conference tournament.
With St. Catharine in its sixth year of participation in the NAIA and the Mid-South, Smith is aware of how rigorous the schedule can be.
“This will be the toughest schedule we’ve had since I’ve been here,” said Smith. “We are playing three nationally ranked teams, one of which is in our conference (Lindsey Wilson). More than half of our schedule will be conference games but finishing third in the tournament last year was enough for the returners to get a taste of what that is like. Now they are thirsty for more but it is always tough in the MSC.”
The Patriots begin the season at home Friday, Feb. 22 with a doubleheader against No. 24 Indiana Wesleyan. That Saturday twin bill starts at noon and will be followed by another doubleheader against Indiana Wesleyan on Sunday, Feb. 23.