Coming off a dismal season just a year ago, the Hilmar High softball team is back at it, but this time with a Turlock High alumna at the helm in Kara Oleson.
Oleson takes over a team that failed to notch a single victory in the Trans Valley League just a year ago, but is hoping that her deep background in softball might swing the momentum for the upcoming year.
“Kara (Hagens) invited me to be her assistant this year but she ended up getting another job out of state and so she took off and I had an interview for the job and they decided it was a good idea,” said Oleson whose maiden name is Ferguson. “I was more than happy to take over the position to see what we can do here.”
The former Bulldog brings a great deal of experience after spending years in the softball world.
From the age of 10 to 19, Oleson played travel ball until she received a scholarship to play collegiate softball at Holy Names University as a catcher.
Oleson is also currently an all around softball coach for the All-American sports academy.
“I feel like we are on the same level and can help each other out and see where we are going and what our goal is,” said Oleson. “I am very concentrated on what blocks need to be built to reach our ultimate goal; it will lead us to better plays, better dynamics it leads to better things.
“This year it is just about a lot of reconditioning mechanics and warming them up and seeing where we stand from last year,” she said. “I think the key to our success this year is going to be a lot of communication between where we were last year from what we are building, and a lot of time on the bases.”
Oleson also looks to make base running a top priority, something that the team failed to execute on a consistent basis just a year ago.
“I know that last year the girls had a rough year and I think this year things are going to be a lot better from what I've seen and game footage,” said Oleson. “I only see great things happening this year; everyone is healthy and out on the field, dirt time will be critical to our success.”
Junior Miranda Gray returns as the ace pitcher as she heads into her third year at the varsity level and Kassidy Mendes, the team's third baseman, is also expected to make some noise throughout the season.
Also expect Kaitlyn Egli, Hannah Pearce and McKenzie Martinez to assist an already youthful team.
The team is only boasting one senior on the roster this year.
“It's kind of a weird year for us, we have a lot of freshmen playing up for us and they will be high contenders in league as well,” said Oleson.
The team is going to need all the help they can get, especially competing in a league where the two runner-ups played one another in last year's Section championship game, Ripon and Hughson.
How Hilmar will fare remains uncertain but with the talent that coach Oleson is boasting, there is no question that the 'Jackets are expected to finally make some noise in the heavy TVL.
“The whole league looks pretty strong, it should be good competition. I think I bring a new set of eyes, a younger view on the game, I've been taught by many of the coaches in the area,” said Oleson. “They've all been mentors of mine.
“I think I get to take everything they taught me and then I get to bring it back to the kids and a sense of leadership as well since I was a catcher my entire life,” Oleson added. “So I come as a leader and I expect those kinds of things as a player's coach and I can understand where they are coming from, I played that same role not long ago.”
Hilmar's first game is scheduled to be against Pitman in the Livingston High preseason tournament at 8:30 a.m. today.