WHEATON — A new sense of excitement envelopes the Wheaton North program with Emily Johnson taking over the reins.
A graduate of Wheaton Warrenville South, Johnson spent the last two years as an assistant coach at Lake Park after leading West Chicago from 2008-10.
"I'm from Wheaton and my husband and I moved back to Wheaton," Johnson said. "When the job opened up, I thought if I didn't go for it, it would be a 'what if' moment. If it wasn't for this job being available, I probably would have never left Lake Park."
What she inherits is a team that fell on hard times a year ago. Building the program back up begins now. "My goal is to bring the love of the game back to the girls," she said.
On the field, the Falcons will be young. The roster of 14 has only four seniors on it though the squad does bring back experienced players in senior Tiffany Giamari, juniors Kat Meyer and Grace Pope and sophomores Kelly Thornton and Paige Grittner.
"I think we have a lot of speed," Johnson said, "and we have a good amount of lefties. We will be aggressive on the basepaths and hopefully the girls gain confidence from that."
The pitching duties should fall to a pair of juniors, Amanda Mordacq and Nickey Kent.
"They are an awesome group of kids," she said. "They are wide-eyed and willing to learn what we have to say. One thing we are doing, being our first year, we are not coming in and changing things if what they are doing is successful. It's not our way or the highway. If they are being successful, we are not going to change them."
The major goal is to improve both their play on the field and in their final record.
"I think as long as the girls stay aggressive," the coach said, "and stay confident in themselves, we will be OK because I think we have a lot of talent."
Wheaton North will again face a tough schedule, highlighted by the DuPage Valley Conference slate of action.
"I'm excited to be back in the DVC," Johnson said. "I like that there is such great competition."
Meet the Falcons
Coach: Emily Johnson
Kelly Thornton so. SS
Kat Meyer jr. 3B
Tiffany Giamari sr. CF
Paige Grittner so. 1B
Grace Pope jr. OF
Next game: 11 a.m. Monday at Downers Grove North
Year Emily Johnson graduated from Wheaton Warrenville South, where she was a four-year varsity softball player. Johnson is in her first year as the Wheaton North head coach.