Three players who won conference accolades in 2013 will lead the Cougar softball team out on to the diamond this season. Seniors Lydia Geving and Abby Hanson were All-SEC (Southeast Conference), while junior Hannah Nolte earned honorable mention in conference voting.

Geving checks in again at catcher. She batted .293 in 2013, scored 11 runs and seven RBI (runs batted in). On defense, Geving made 51 put outs and 14 assists.

Shortstop Hanson led the team in six categories, batting .353, scoring 19 runs and recording four extra-base hits (two doubles, two triples). She got on the base path 15 times with walks and made 44 assists.

Nolte plays third base. She hit .286, scoring 13 runs.

Other returning letter winners in the starting lineup include seniors Chelcie Busch (first base/catcher/outfield), Sara Lind (pitcher), and center fielder Kourtney Coyle. Junior Ashley Dahl is listed at second base/pitcher. She batted .200. Junior Taylor Adkins will bat as DP (designated player) and handle second base when called on. Sophomore Coranda Vickerman is listed at utility (.293, 12 runs, 13 stolen bases).

Junior Danielle Graves will play in the outfield. Freshman Courtney Graves can fill in at catcher, first, or in the outfield. Both lettered last year. Sophomore Hannah Underbakke will play as a utility infielder. Freshman Kayla Patterson will pitch and play outfield.

Team captains are listed as Hanson, Geving, Dahl and Coyle.

Head coach Kati Tweeten is now in her sixth season at the helm. She'll be assisted by Susie Munroe, now in her fourth year with the program.

This year's squad returns some experienced players, Tweeten said. "Many of the seniors have been starting at their positions since eighth or ninth grade. We also have a few more pitchers this season and some bench players that will be able to offer us some help on both offense and defense."

Challenges remain for the Cougars at the plate. Last year, the team struggled to string hits together against good pitching and left too many runners on base, Tweeten noted.

"Last season we were last in section race," she continued. "We are hoping to improve on that. I think if we cut down on errors and come up with a few of those big hits with runners on base we will be able to increase our wins and get toward the middle section of the conference."

Houston and Chatfield will probably be the teams to beat in the conference and section races, Tweeten added.