Girouard, Tigers have "unfinished business"

LSU head softball coach Yvette Girouard and the Tigers kicked off spring practice on Jan. 8 as they begin their uphill climb toward a Southeastern Conference championship and an appearance at the Women's College World Series.

The Lady Tigers fell one game short last year of reaching the college world series following a dismal 2005 season, but they now feature one of the most experienced group of players returning ,along with 12 upperclassmen.

           

"We have unfinished business," Andrea Smith said. "Our goal is to go to the College World Series. We worked too hard and were too close to going last season that we would just ignore it the next year."                                                                                            

 

LSU returns five position starters and three pitchers, including 2006 NFCA All-Americans Emily Turner and Leslie Klein. In addition, the Tigers return NFCA first-team All-South Region selection Vanessa Soto and Louisiana Freshman of the Year Dani Hofer.                                                                                                                                         

 

Among the other returning starters is junior catcher Killian Roessner, junior shortstop Andrea Smith and outfielder Quinlan Duhon. LSU also returns a trio of pitchers in Turner, Hofer and junior Tiffany Garcia.                                                                            

 

"I think [Turner] is ready to have another All-American year," Girouard said.    

           

Soto moved from second base to first base following the departure of Stephanie Hill due to graduation and has said she has enjoyed the move. The switch took place following the 2006 season, which gave Soto the entire summer and fall to acquaint herself with the new position.

           

"I'm just trying to do the best thing for the team," Soto said. "Coach asked me to make the switch so that's what I did."

           

The Tigers bring in five freshmen, including NFCA High School All-American Lindsey Hope, EA Sports All-American Cody Trahan, Texas All-Star Game MVP Jazz Jackson, Texas All-State selection Rachel Mitchell and NFCA All-Region selection Stacey Woods. LSU also adds Oklahoma transfer Tayl'r Hollis, who sat out last season after joining the team in the spring of 2006.

           

"I think this year's team has amazing chemistry," Hollis said. "The core of our team is back. I expect greatness out of this team. I think we have the potential to be in the College World Series. We all know that."

           

At the plate, the Tigers lost two power hitters to graduation in Camille Harris and Lauren Castle, but Girouard believes her squad will be more balanced and consistent. She said she doesn't believe her team will have a lot of pop at the plate, but that doesn't mean they will not score a lot of runs.

           

"I think this team is very capable of hitting one through nine," Girouard said. "I don't think we will have as much pop as last year, but I do think we will hit for better average. We have good eye-contact hitters that will put the ball into play."

           

Girouard also brought in a new assistant coach in Megan Smith. She joins the LSU softball program from Western Carolina, where she served as the head coach for their inaugural 2006 season. As the head coach for the Catamounts last season, she guided the first-year program to their first Southern Conference title, compiling a 41-20 record, including a 16-4 mark in league play.                                                                             

 

For her success, she was named the 2006 SoCon Coach of the Year.                          

 

Her team posted 81 home runs, which ranked third nationally, while WCU ranked 12th in the NCAA in slugging percentage, 19th in scoring, 38th in win-loss percentage and 50th in batting average. Additionally, three players ranked nationally statistically, and two were named to the NFCA All-Southeastern Region team.

           

"Coach Smith has made a huge impact," Girouard said. "We changed up the drills just a little bit and put a new twist on things. She brought in more team unity and made things more competitive. She really has made a positive impact on the team."

           

The team will open the season on Feb. 9 against Memphis at Tiger Park in the Tiger Classic at 3:30 p.m. The Tigers will then take on Centenary, Middle Tennessee and Missouri before beginning bracket play in the three-day tournament.



Check back to TigerRag.com for complete previews of the Tigers in the field position by position as well as LSU's pitching staff.

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