The NJCAA #19 GMC JC Softball team is on the road today for a weekend tournament in the JUCO Kickoff Classic in Clearwater, Florida. They will be competing against #1, #3, and #6 NJCAA ranked team in the nation as they start their year off. The Bulldogs are fresh off a successful 2015-16 campaign which saw them set the record for most wins in season, win the Georgia Collegiate Athletic Conference for the first time and advanced to the NJCAA National Championship in St. George, Utah.
What a season it was for the GMC JC Softball 2015-16 team as there were 27 single season, career and team records set this year for the Bulldogs. The bar is set high this year for the team but with 8 returners back from the championship team they have set their goals high and are looking to make a deep run this year at the National Championship. Their schedule will see the Bulldogs on the road for 22 of their first 26 games and then will settle in at home with 18 of their last 30 games at home. At the end of the season the Bulldogs will look to defend their GCAA Championship at home as the Georgia Military College Athletic Department is proud to be hosting the Conference Championship April 27th thru 29th 2017 at Couch Field.
You can follow the live action all year long on your phone with the GameChanger app. Download the app and tag GMC Bulldogs and follow. You can also go to the GMC Athletic website at www.gmcbulldogs.com click on Softball and see their schedule.
I had a chance to sit down with Head Coach Ashley Bunn and ask a few question regarding the team and the upcoming season.
SG: You have a lot of returners from last yeas' conference championship team so are you pleased with their approach to this year? Are they continuing to improve?
Coach Bunn: "I have 8 returners from last years' team, including redshirt Freshman Katy Stamey. I think that the challenges that we had to face to win the conference tournament and the two losses at Nationals last year have left an impression on the returners from last years' team. They understand that nothing is going to be given to us and that we have to work hard in order to reach the goals that we have set for this year. They are continuing to improve, as there is always someone behind you waiting on their chance to take over a position."
SG: Is there a sense of wanting to get back to the National Championship and go deep or a sense of satisfaction from last years accomplishments?
Coach Bunn: "No satisfaction with just making it to the National Championship last year. We have clear cut goals that we have discussed from day 1 in September and created as a team and none of those goals include settling for just making it there last year. When we lost out last year, my now sophomores began talking then about getting back and going further, pushing the limits of GMC Softball. They have worked hard throughout the fall season and the couple of weeks we have had leading up to the season. They have put in the work needed on the field, in the weight room and during conditioning to better themselves. I'm excited to see where it takes us."
SG: How are your freshmen coming along? Are they developing at the pace you would like?
Coach Bunn: "Our freshmen get 'on the job training' from the day they get here in the fall. Having the fall practices and scrimmages really allows us time to see where each freshman excels and also time to develop any weaknesses that they may have. We played a tough fall schedule this year and our freshmen when in confident and gave it everything they had. They have listened to all suggestions made by Coach Wise and myself, and have done a good job of making improvements to this point. We look for all of them to make an impact this year in various roles."
SG: What do you like most about this 2017 team?
Coach Bunn: "Their versatility and depth. We have several interchangeable pieces this year which creates depth in places where we have lacked in previous years. We have a good balance of speed and power offensively and some solid defensive players who can all play multiple positions very well."
SG: With the weekend tourney in Clearwater coming up…what are you and your staff looking for within the performance of your team?
Coach Bunn: "We have a tough schedule this weekend in Clearwater, facing the # 1, 3, and 6 Preseason teams. Coach Wise and I look for us to go down there and compete. In years past we have gone into this tournament talking about who we had to beat, this years' motto is "they have to beat us". If we play our best we believe that we can compete with and beat any team that we face. We are going to have our hands full, but that's what you want. To be the best you have to beat the best. This weekend is our chance to show what we got, see where we need to continue to improve and develop and get ready for conference play."
SG: Who are some key players for you this year and who we should keep an eye on?
Coach Bunn: "It's difficult to point out just a few key players when there are so many that will have the opportunity to contribute in different roles. Obviously pitching is a key factor for us and having both starting pitchers, Messer and Downs, returning from last year helps. We look for Wilbanks to pick back up where she left off last year and Stamey to return from injury without missing a beat. We expect to have major offensive contributions from Sophomores Crews and Rediger, as well as Freshmen Rigsbee, Johnson and T. Krause. But always keep an eye out for several others to make huge impacts for us throughout the season."