"We have all but one of our starters back from last season," M-C softball head coach Kati Tweeten said recently. "A lot of these girls have had varsity experience from eighth grade. They have been playing together for many years... Defensively we are pretty sound. We are constantly cutting down on errors and improving on defense."

Tweeten is embarking on her fifth year at the helm. She's joined once again by assistant Susie Munroe, in her third season.

Ten returning letter winners include senior captain Kristina Mengis a pitcher and junior catcher Lydia Geving, also a team captain. Senior Danielle Paul is listed in the outfield, along with juniors Kourtney Coyle and Chelcie Busch. Junior Abby Hanson checks in at shortstop. Sophomores Hannah Nolte (third base), Ashlyn Dahl (second base), and Danielle Graves (outfield) also return. Eighth grader Coranda Vickerman also lettered. She's listed as utility infielder.

Leading hitters last year included Nolte at .422, 7 runs batted in (RBI) and 8 stolen bases. Geving had a batting average of .311 including 19 RBI and 2 home runs. Hanson hit .260 with 16 runs scored and 4 stolen bases. Paul hit .225 with 6 RBI, five doubles and two triples.

Nolte, Hanson, and Geving all earned SEC All-Conference first team honors last year. For Geving, 2012 marked a second straight appearance.

"Last year we improved offensively but we still have a long way to go," Tweeten said. "We would get runners in position but lack the power to drive them in to produce more runs."

Pitching is another concern. Kristina Mengis wound up throwing 87 of 98 innings for the Cougars last season. Tweeten said she did a great job, especially in cutting down on walks. A little more back-up help is needed, however.

Also, "We are looking for someone to step up and fill in at first base," she added. "A few of the candidates are eighth grader Coranda Vickerman, junior Chelcie Busch and sophomore Danielle Graves. Seniors Courtney Smith and Morgan Roppe, as well as junior Emily Brumm will be looking for playing time in the infield. Junior Sara Lind is out for softball for the first time. We are looking for her to step up and pitch a few innings. Junior Emily Brumm, sophomore Taylor Adkins, freshmen Taylor Richardson and Hannah Underbakke, and eighth grader Courtney Graves are able to fill in at many positions."

"As a team we are constantly look for improvements. Each of my four previous seasons we have set our goals to improve in a certain area or aspect of the game. And we work hard at meeting that goal. Each season we improve as a team, and this season we will continue that."

Tweeten said Houston should be a favorite in the conference and section races. The Cougars should be comparable to Glenville-Emmons, she added.

Weather permitting; the Cougars are scheduled to begin play at home versus Plainview-Elgin-Millville on April 2. A more likely date is the second game, at Glenville-Emmons on April 8. On April 12, M-C is set to host Fillmore Central.