Tyler Junior College has never fielded a softball team, and will have to start inexperienced freshmen. On top of that they will be facing defending National Champions, Angelina College in conference play. However, softball Head Coach Nicole Dickson has high expectations.
“I expect to finish top three in conference and hopefully top two at the regional tournament,” Dickson said. “We’re very young, but we are also very talented. If we just play as a team, we definitely have a chance at being top of the region.”
After recruiting 17 athletes for the college’s first softball team, Dickson and her assistant, Caitlin Bollier, are confident about leading the team to victory.
“We’ve got a big freshman class, plus the sophomores and we’ve got three transfers (from other colleges) coming in so we’re really excited,” said Dickson, a former softball player who, as head coach at Paris Junior College, led the Lady Dragons to a ninth-place finish in the NJCAA National Tournament.
For months, the coaches have been putting TJC’s first team together.
“Surprisingly, it wasn’t stressful, just busy,” Bollier said. “It feels like we’re always doing something, which is exciting.”
The team faces tough competition from Angelina College, which just moved into the conference, after taking the world series in their previous conference in May of last year.
“Angelina is the defending national champions. Navarro also has a very strong program,” said Dickson, who as a pitcher at Eastern New Mexico University posted a 22-14 record.
TJC is also preparing for Blinn, Galveston, Paris and Kilgore.
“We have to show up, play and take care of our business,” said Bollier, who played for Mary Hardin-Baylor University.
Amber Pufal, a freshman outfielder from League City, is excited about having signed with TJC.
“It doesn’t even feel like a junior college,” said Pufal, who was an All-District and All-County selection at Clear Springs High School. “The athletic and academic programs are great. I’m very happy to be here,”
Pufal has enjoyed getting to know the other players.
“We’re all so different and we’re all from different areas,” said Pufal. “We’re definitely learning about each others personalities. It’s a really great feeling”.
Pufal believes that success will all be a matter of working together as a team.
“My biggest fear for the season is that we fail to pull together,” said Pufal. “We’ve done so well getting to know each other. Hopefully, there won’t be a point where we break – which I highly doubt – but you never know.”
Pufal knows the other teams in the conference are competitive but she doesn’t seem worried.
“We’ve seen most of the other teams play and they’re all super competitive so you just take each game, game by game. Just play your best.” said Pufal.