DOWNERS GROVE — Eight seniors have graduated from last year's team, including all-conference selections Danielle Trezzo and Katy LaCivita.
It's a unique situation for longtime coach Ron Havelka, but the cupboard is far from bare.
"When we were second in the state in 2006 we lost five seniors from that team, some really good girls, but we had another good year the next year," Havelka said. "We haven't lost eight seniors recently, and then we also have some injuries, but by what I've seen at practice we'll be OK. Sometimes losing eight can be devastating, but I think we'll be OK."
Jessica Andree was an infield starter last spring and Caitlyn Daly saw time in the outfield. Several other juniors who were on the varsity team last year will step into larger roles, and they will be buttressed by a slew of promising freshmen.
"We have a lot of young kids coming up and getting their first taste of varsity ball, but I'm encouraged with how they've been practicing so far," Havelka said.
Foremost among the newcomers is freshman Caroline Hedgcock, a left-handed pitcher with a solid arsenal of pitches who has impressed Havelka with her throwing sessions. Kelly Schmitt is returning to the pitcher's circle but is coming off an ACL injury. Hedgcock's presence should allow Schmitt to work back into the rotation at a more comfortable pace. Catcher Kaley Smith is also recovering from a lingering basketball injury, which could put Olivia Parks behind the plate early in the season.
It won't take long for the Mustangs to see exactly what they're made of. Their second and third games of the season come in a doubleheader against Marist on Saturday, followed by a date with a Benet team that won 32 games last year. Contests against Lockport, Sandburg and Downers Grove North loom later in the season.
"We're thrown right into the fire and that's a good thing because it shows us where we're at," Havelka said.
The Mustangs have won 17 West Suburban Gold titles during Havelka's tenure. No. 18 isn't out of the question, but for now they are setting broader goals.
"Our whole goal is to keep getting better, now and all the way through the middle of May (when the playoffs start)," Havelka said.
Meet the Mustangs
Coach: Ron Havelka
2012 record: 24-10 (10-2 West Suburban Gold)
Jessica Andree jr. SS
Caitlyn Daly jr. CF
Crystal Loehman jr. 1B
Melissa Orton jr. OF
Olivia Parks sr. C
Kelly Schmitt sr. P
Kaley Smith jr. C/1B
Emma Thibault sr. U
Next game: 11 a.m. Saturday vs. Marist at DGS