The Wauwatosa East softball team has to replace some key positions, but the Red Raiders have some good talent returning and some promising newcomers to draw on.
It will be up to coach Ed Raue to make it all work this spring.
'We need to replace three great seniors — Meredith Starnes, Katie Drakulic and Zoe Jones — and the key positions they played: third, shortstop and second, respectively,' Raue said. 'Those losses created an open competition at every position other than pitcher and catcher.
'We may not settle on positions until later in the season, if at all. The good news is we have athletes who are able to play multiple positions.'
Raue does have talent to draw from, including four players who made all-conference honors on some level.
Morgan Schmanski was a first-team all-Greater Metro Conference selection, as well as a NOW All-Suburban first-teamer last year.
'Morgan had an incredible sophomore season,' Raue said. 'As a junior, she won't sneak up on anyone. She will need to become more selective and patient at the plate as teams try to pitch around her.
'She will also need to become a more complete player, and she may play a variety of positions.'
Cora Bilitz was a second-team all-conference performer.
'We need her to step up to the next level,' Raue said.
Taylor Cure and Natalie Yahn rounded out the all-conference selections, as both made honorable mention.
'A strong bat that keeps getting better,' Raue said of Cure. 'Nat is driven this season. She had a good junior season, but it didn't meet her standards and she is out to prove that she is one of the best in the conference. She has worked very hard this off-season.'
Sophomore pitcher Allie Kuhn also returns, looking more comfortable and much more confident.
'She showed her value last year, being involved in the school's first two no-hitters (starting one and finishing the other),' Raue said. 'Her quick bat will provide an added dimension to the lineup.'
Raue also feels some newcomers will be key players this season.
Analiese Glawe is a pitcher who will be expected to share the load with Bilitz and contribute offensively right away. Shea Murphy is a good athlete who has shown the ability to meet and exceed all challenges, thus far.
Riley Breider is a player who projects to be a top-of-the-order hitter for years to come, and Kenzie Miller is expected to help share the catching duties with Cure.
Looking for leadership
Raue is looking for more than talent on the field, though.
'We lost our leaders and need the players to take ownership of themselves,' he said. 'Acclimating individuals into the team, especially with the newcomers, will be a challenge for me.'
Raue feels the conference will be tough again, looking at Menomonee Falls, Divine Savior Holy Angels, Brookfield Central and the dark horse, Sussex Hamilton.
'They will be great challenges for us,' he said. 'We have a program headed in the right direction. We won 14 games last year and finished fourth in the conference, which are all positives. In order for us to continue trending up, we need to come together as a group and focus each day.'