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Previewing the 2020 Maryland softball season

The Terps enter the new season under first-year head coach Mark Montgomery.

Photo courtesy of Maryland athletics

After coaching Maryland softball for four seasons, head coach Julie Wright resigned in August 2019 after struggling throughout her tenure. The team went 59-147-1 overall and 19-73 in the Big Ten during her time, grappling (for the most part, unsuccessfully) to compete in the new league.

Difficulties for the team seemed to lie in hitting and pitching in 2019, making Wright’s future with the team uncertain. Junior infielder Taylor Wilson said the team struggled last season with a lack of trust between players “in tough moments.”

During the 2019 season, though, the Terps’ offense was as good as it had ever been in the Big Ten, with a batting average of .288 compared to .235 the year before. The team made a three-win improvement despite losing nine players from the previous season.

Head Coach Mark Montgomery begins his first season with the Terps with 19 years of experience as a collegiate-level head coach. He won 2019 Conference USA Co-Coach of the Year honors after guiding his Louisiana Tech team to conference regular season and tournament championships.

In his seven-year tenure at Louisiana Tech, he led the team to five consecutive 30+ win seasons, despite the team having only one in the last 23 years before Montgomery’s arrival. In 19 seasons of head coaching, his record is 556-483, with 13 winning seasons.

Assistant coach Mike Larabee joins the Terps after four seasons as head coach at Central Washington University. After four years with the team, the Wildcats finished with a 30-16 total record and conference record of 21-7. The team enjoyed winning three GNAC Titles and its greatest season to date during his time.

Assistant coach Chelsea Butler has more than a decade of experience as a collegiate student-athlete and pitching coach. Before joining the Terps, Butler led the pitching staff and assisted in recruiting and team workouts for University of the Incarnate Word.

Mike Forsythe, volunteer assistant coach for the season, has spent the past three years at Louisiana Tech assisting Montgomery. He will aid Butler with the pitching staff.

Who’s new

The Terps brought in four freshmen, preparing for a season of change and growth: pitchers Trinity Schlotterbeck and Courtney Wyche, outfielder Campbell Kline and infielder Taylor Liguori. Redshirt freshman Katie Dustin will begin as a catcher this season after an injury during the 2019 season.

Kline highlights the class and could make an impact right away. She was named the Gatorade Maryland Softball Player of Year in 2018, as well as the All-Metro Softball Player of the Year by the Baltimore Sun. Kline also broke the Maryland state career hits record, recording 185 throughout her high school career.

Wilson says she’s seen the positive outcomes of the freshmen adapting to the team already.

“I’m actually really excited because all of the freshman that are with us have played with each other before,” Wilson said. “That adds an interesting and really rare dynamic that I feel like isn’t common.”

Who’s gone

The 2019 season was the last for three seniors — infielder Bailey Boyd and pitcher Sydney Golden, both after two years with the Terps, and infielder/pitcher Sami Main, who spent four seasons with the team. Golden and Main were the team’s most reliable arms in last year’s circle.

Pitcher Victoria Galvan was medically disqualified due to a back injury after her first season with the Terps last year — though she’ll be continuing her academic career at the university. Losing three of its five pitchers from last year’s roster, the team is moving forward with young talent in the circle.

What to look for

In hoping to transform the softball program as a whole, Montgomery says the team has set high expectations for themselves.

“I don’t ever imagine that we’re not going to go after and try to win a Big Ten championship. That’s our goal. That’s why we’re here,” he said. “They’re really giving it everything they’ve got every day, and I think that’ll translate into wins.”

Montgomery added that the team is working on its overall strategy, defense, pitching and offense every day in practice. Players have learned new signals and flags, which he said proves the Terps’ determination to find success this year.

“We want to be a team that no matter what’s thrown at us, we can adapt and change and overcome,” he said.

Coming soon

The Terps’ season begins Feb. 5 at the Texas Classic series in Austin, Texas, where they’ll go up against Wichita State, Texas (currently ranked No. 6), Colorado State, Lamar and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.

From then, they’ll compete in weekend away tournaments until the team’s first home games against Indiana on April 3-5.

Later in April, the Terps will face Michigan, currently ranked No. 18 on the NCAA’s preseason top-25, shortly before the Big Ten championships.

Senior infielder Anna Kufta encouraged students to attend a game and see their hard work in action.

“I think when we play on the field, it exemplifies how close we are as a team and how well we get along together,” Kufta said. “We’re going to put on a show this year.”