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New coach, same expectations for Downers Grove North softball

DOWNERS GROVE – Heading into the 2014 season, Downers Grove North’s softball team does so with a team that saw several key seniors, including Elaine Heflin, Brittany Nagy, Carolyn Nojiri and Madeline Wojciak, graduate.

But first year varsity head coach Eric Landschoot, who was a freshman coach in the program the last two years, inherits a solid team that has the personnel in place to match last year’s success.

“So far so good,” Landschoot said. “They practice every day like they want to be the ones on top at the end of the year. There’s a lot of healthy competition between the group. No one’s complacent, no one thinks their job is set in stone, and I think that’s healthy because at practice you should be practicing like your position is up for grabs.”

North won its fourth straight West Suburban Silver title last spring with an 11-1 mark and made it to the sectional championship game, marking its deepest playoff advancement since 1979.

Ali Woitovich, who flashed a powerful bat last season, Brittany Claver, Kelsey Gockman, Colleen Honn, Annie Lusher and Kaylee Newstrom return to the lineup. Woitovich, Gockman, Newstrom and Lusher batted third, fourth, fifth and sixth, respectively, at times last season. Hannah Mrazek also saw action last spring and returns to the team.

Perhaps the biggest return is that of Dale Ryndak, who missed nearly all of last season after tearing her ACL in the first inning of North’s first game. She has committed to play college ball at Arizona State.

“Dale is 100 percent, she’s ready to go,” Landschoot said. “She’ll obviously be our go-to arm.”

Lusher and junior Megan Ramsden flesh out the pitching staff. Sophomore Jaclyn Pasakarnis and junior Emma Varsbergs, who both saw time with the varsity last spring, also return.

While there will be some changes to the lineup this spring, including replacing leadoff hitter Nojiri, the Trojans expect nothing less than to surpass last year’s success.

“Every girl on the team thinks it’s realistic for us to shoot for that state championship,” Landschoot said. “From what I know and from what I see, we’re going to be right in the mix of things. They all think, as do I, that we have a legitimate shot of being on top for most of the year.”

Downers Grove North Trojans

Coach: Eric Landschoot

2013 record: 26-9, regional champions

Top players

Brittany Claver sr. OF/SS

Kelsey Gockman sr. C/3B

Colleen Honn sr. 1B

Annie Lusher sr. IF/OF

Kaylee Newstrom sr. IF/OF

Dale Ryndak sr. P

Ali Woitovich sr. OF/IF

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