Two new head softball coaches lead the way in Lakeville
by Andy Rogers
Colleen Powers appears to have found a home coaching varsity softball.
The newly installed Lakeville South head coach was a three-sport star with Benilde-St. Margaret’s in the early 2000s, and played for the University of Minnesota softball team where she was errorless as an outfielder while gathering numerous awards.
After graduating in 2008 she coached with West Texas A&M University and by 2010 she worked her way up to coaching at the Division I level at Central Michigan University, where she worked with former Team USA assistant coach Margo Jonker and earned a master’s degree in sports administration.
Powers spent her summers working as club coach, where she was drawn to coaching younger student-athletes.
“I find I’m able to have an impression on the kids,” Powers said. “I love to teach the game. The collegiate level gets so bogged down with paperwork and recruiting. I felt like I didn’t have any time to focus on the task at hand like winning games and teaching the girls.”
She was a late hire in the process, so it’s been a whirlwind for Powers the past three weeks, but she praised support she’s received from the administration and coaching staff.
She describes her coaching philosophy as one centered on growth and fundamentals.
“My main goal is to graduate from my program strong and confident young women,” Powers said. “I’m very fundamentally based. I really love the adrenaline rush of calling an offense and positioning a defense. At the end of the day, how I judge a team is if they leave it all on the field – if they’re the dirtiest team when the game is over.”
Last season the Cougars went 11-8, but suffered an early exit in the playoffs, losing to Eastview by 10 runs in the first round. Losing high-caliber players such as Kendall Palfi, Taylor Donnelly and Molly Olson to graduation will hurt, but every team goes through turnover.
“We have a strong core of starters back,” Powers said. “Offensively our lineup is going to be strong from top to bottom. What they lack in experience, they bring with them knowledge and skill.”
Two of the top players from 2011 have returned in Lindsey Uphoff and Lindsey Kamleiter along with returning starters Sammi Harris, Baylee and Bree Meier and pitchers Kylie Stober and Madeline Bianchi.
The season opener is scheduled for April 9 with a visit from Prior Lake.
New Panther head coach Sean Hall, who has coached 190 teams in soccer, basketball and softball in the past 25 years, is one of the big names in the softball coaching world.
He was the head softball coach for a North St. Paul team for the past nine years, winning a state title in 2007 and coming home with the silver in 2010, 2009 and 2004. Before North St. Paul, Hall won a state title with St. Bernard’s in 2002.
He’s also the owner of S&C Sports Services and coach of the Minnesota Sting, one of the premier fastpitch programs in the Midwest.
So why Lakeville North?
“I had the chance to coach a few of the girls in summer programs and got to know them through clinic,” Hall said. “I had a lot of contacts and thought they were really good people. A little bit of it was it’s just time for a change for me. This is a good chance to build a program.”
He was attracted to the high level of competition in the south metro.
“You’re challenged every week out,” Hall said. “That really prepares you for the state tournament, if you’re lucky enough to get there. In North St. Paul, you played in a conference that really didn’t prepare you for state. It didn’t really matter what you did the first part of the year. It only mattered what happens in he last three games.”
He’s taking over for long-time head coach Randy Schmitz, who he has admired for years.
“I have a lot of respect for what he did,” Hall said.
Coaches will often say the players make them look good, and Hall said he’s blessed with some of the best young talent in the state.
He said he wouldn’t be surprised if sophomore pitcher Michaela Zins leads the metro in strikeouts by June.
An ace can take a team far in the varsity softball world, even after moving the mound to 43 feet from the plate last year.
“The dominant pitchers still get strikeouts,” Hall said.
Zins has a veteran catcher in classmate Erika Rozell. Hall is also excited about the team’s speed, particularly from outfielders Sarah Nelson and Jessica Meidl as well as Emily Shinn at shortstop.
“Our pitching and defense will be our strength this year,” Hall said. “We’re going to need to work out our hitting, though. It’s got to get better.”
The Panthers won’t be the oldest team in the league this season with just two seniors on the roster, Allison Moore and Angela Turner, but with the right attitude, Hall feels they could improve on last season’s 8-12 record and first-round exit in the playoffs.
“I’m impressed with how the younger players, all of the players, have gotten along really well,” Hall said. “They all respect each other and have a great team attitude.”
Lakeville North’s first game is April 11 at Burnsville.
Andy Rogers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or facebook.com/sunthisweek.