The Coupeville High School softball team returns a solid nucleus of players, but how well the newcomers fill in the gaps will most likely determine the success of the season.
The Wolves welcome back six multi-year letter winners: seniors Madeline Robert (shortstop/outfield), Haley Sherman (outfield) and Breeanna Messner (infield/catcher) and juniors Hailey Hammer (first base), Madeline Strasburg (outfield/catcher) and McKayla Bailey (pitcher/outfield).
Monica Vidoni (outfield), who suited up for varsity last spring, also returns and "has shown improvement," co-head coach David King said.
The hard-hitting Hammer was a first-team, all-league selection last spring. However, she is still recovering from a basketball injury and may not be full speed when the season starts.
Strasburg earned second-team honors in 2013, and Roberts and Bailey were honorable mention.
"This group has speed, plays good defense and will be a threat on offense along with having good base-running instincts," said King. "Each one can play multiple positions and play them well."
Bailey, who handled much of the pitching duties the past two seasons, returns to give the Wolves a strong presence in the circle.
King said the letter winners came to the first practice "ready to go" and "determined to work hard and make this a successful season."
The six returnees are talented, but it takes nine to fill the diamond.
Key newcomers sophomore Emily Coulter (infield), freshman Emily License (pitcher/catcher/outfield) and freshman Jae LeVine (second base), along with Vidoni, will most likely complete the lineup, King said.
"The incoming players are inexperienced," King said, adding they are "willing to listen and improve."
The expectations for the season, co-coach Amy King said, are to "come out fighting and see continual growth from start to finish."
The Kings have coached this group through youth leagues and in other sports and sees the familiarity as an advantage.
"They know us and what to expect," Amy King said. "They know we teach fundamentals and will push them to grow and succeed."
The Kings expect the Cascade Conference to be strong this season and see the Wolves as a team that can compete.
"I believe if we can bring along he younger players and get them playing well, we can be a tough team to beat," David King said.
Coupeville starts the season at Port Townsend at Blue Heron Middle School at 4:15 p.m. Monday, March 17. The next day they open the home and conference season with South Whidbey at 4 p.m.