The University of the Incarnate Word’s 2016 softball team is expected to finish last this spring in the Southland Conference, according to a preseason poll released in January.
But Cardinals Coach Amanda “Mandy” Gamboa begs to differ with the polling of the league’s head coaches and sports information directors who only have last year’s 12-39 overall record and 4-23 conference mark as reference points.
In fact, Gamboa believes the league is going to be surprised by UIW’s team.
“Winning only four conference games we really didn’t prove ourselves to the conference last year, which of course resulted in the last-place standings,” said Gamboa, who’s in her fourth year as head coach.
“It’s unfortunate with standings/record, you don’t see the whole picture,” she added. “All you see is a number. It doesn’t show the leaps and strides we have made over the past two years. The work our athletes have put in the weight room, classroom and (on) the diamond.”
UIW returns 10 players who made at least 20 starts in 2015, including the team’s top pitcher, Kristin Hebert, a junior biology major from Humble, Texas, who earned honorable mention all-conference honors last year.
“We are growing as a team and as a program we know we are going in the right direction,” Gamboa said. “We have added 11 new Cardinals to our team and we are 28 strong.”
The team opens its season Feb. 11 on the road at the University of Texas-El Paso and won’t play the first home game at Sullivan Field until March 11 against Northwestern State University.
“We are going to surprise a lot of opponents this year with our short-game, strong defense and depth in our pitching and hitting,” Gamboa said. “If you are going to beat us, you’re going to have work for it. The only great thing about placing us low (in the poll) is all you can do is go up, and I have complete faith in my team that we will go up.”