Mountain Lions cast eye to national stage
After each team was eliminated from the 2004 NCAA Division II South Central Regional Softball Tournament, the teams gathered on the field and the announcer recognized the eliminated teams' seniors. That ceremony was particularly short when the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs was finally eliminated by Angelo State in the championship game Saturday evening.
That's because the Mountain Lions, who finished the season with a 39-13 record, a Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference championship and a strong run at a regional title, had no seniors to recognize.
Talk about bright futures.
CU-Colorado Springs had a breakout year in 2004 and all signs point to more of the same for the foreseeable future.
"I see great things for us not losing a single senior and having tons of freshmen - good ballplayers - coming in," said junior catcher Crystal Krebs, who was named RMAC player of the year after winning the conference triple crown by hitting .504 with 19 home runs and 58 RBI. "I think that we're going to be unstoppable next year. I'm very, very excited."
After the Mountain Lions accomplished their primary goal for the season - winning the RMAC championship - they stunned the region by making an impressive, albeit improbable, run at regionals. CU-Colorado Springs opened by beating Midwestern State, which had been ranked as high as 12th nationally this season, by a run-rule shortened score of 9-1. The Mountain Lions then lost to No. 6-ranked St. Mary's - the region's top seed and the tournament host - by a score of 11-4 to drop into the loser's bracket.
Facing elimination, CU-Colorado Springs beat No. 18 Texas Woman's 2-1 on Friday then No. 28 Tarleton State 5-3 on Saturday morning, setting up a rematch with St. Mary's that afternoon.
"St. Mary's shocked by Colorado team," was the headline in the May 9 edition of the San Antonio Express-News. But the Mountain Lions' victory over the Lady Rattlers, who had won the past three regional titles, likely shocked folks not only from Texas, but around the country. And while an exhausted CU-Colorado Springs was eliminated Saturday evening by a rested Angelo State team, those shock waves were not diminished.
"Even before the (Angelo State) game started, we were all talking like "˜can you believe that there're only 16 teams left in the country and we're one of them?'" said junior shortstop Jennifer Dykstra, who was named first-team All-RMAC after hitting .413. "It doesn't seem real yet."
But those shock waves weren't simply the result of an unknown and unrecognized team knocking off a few rankled teams. They signaled the arrival of CU-Colorado Springs on the national scene - an arrival that had been in the building since Scott Peterson arrived prior to the 2001 season.
"When we came in it was like a building point," said Dykstra, who was a key member of Peterson's initial recruiting class. "We were all freshmen and we were all learning and being taught how to work together. Now all we have to do is teach the incoming girls how to be a part of us."
That's an important distinction. The 2004 Mountain Lions learned how to win beyond the conference level. They came to understand that they have the ability to compete at the national level if they are willing to pay the price in work and dedication. Most importantly, they learned to pay that price while still retaining a fundamental joy for the game.
Having learned that, it will be the players that set the example for the 2005 recruiting class, which Peterson feels may be his strongest yet. With the entire 2004 team returning and an impressive infusion of new talent coming, CU-Colorado Springs will have the makeup to be a national contender.
"The future's very bright," said Peterson. "We've got a great group of kids, a great recruiting class and great coaches.
"It's bad news for the rest of the conference and for the region. It's not just for next year, either. We're going to go on a run now. This program's going to be good for a while."
UCCS Players/Staff Featured
|Additional News Stories|
|December 27, 2004||Peterson reloads with strong recruiting class||Faced with the loss of seven seniors after this season, University of Colorado at Colorado Springs softball coach Scott Peterson knew that the 2004 and 2005 recruiting classes would be pivotal in carrying forward the national ranking that the current Mountain Lions worked so hard to earn.|
|October 18, 2004||Renovation of softball field begins||The first step of what promises to be a major upgrade of the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs softball facility began Monday when team members began painting the bleachers at what used to be Four-Diamonds Sports Complex's Red Field.|
|September 30, 2004||Fall ball shows that Lions are loaded||Collegiate softball's fall season operates much like pro football's preseason. The games don't count in the standings, so the primary goal is to evaluate talent for the upcoming spring season. After 17 games of evaluation, the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs can be assured of one thing concerning its 2005 softball team.|
|June 2, 2004||Softball finishes 10th nationally||To the long string of firsts attained by the 2004 University of Colorado at Colorado Springs softball team, add one more.A Top-10 national ranking.The Mountain Lions finished the season ranked 10th in the National Fastpitch Coaches Association Division II poll, which was released Wednesday. The NFCA is responsible for the official softball rankings of the NCAA.CU-Colorado Springs was unranked until the final poll. The Mountain Lions, however, gained national notice by knocking off three nationally ranked teams at the South Central regional tournament on their way to a second-place finish. That the South Central regional winner, Angelo State, went on to win the national championship also helped CU-Colorado Springs in the voting.|
|May 17, 2004||Powerful recruiting class bolsters Mountain Lions||If the coaches in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference and the Southwest Region thought the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs' run to the RMAC title and the regional championship game was a one-time fluke, they'll need to reevaluate that assessment. Not only did the Mountain Lions graduate no seniors, but they also will get back a star pitcher and have signed one of the strongest recruiting classes in school history.|