Lipscomb University Head Softball Coach Andy Lane believes the 2005 Junior Class will go down as one of the most talented groups in Lady Bison softball history. Pitcher Sara Meek, Second Baseman Lauren Parker, Centerfielder Candice McWherter, Infielder/Catcher Ashley Villalpando, Outfielder Jessica Wilson and Third Baseman Anna Cleland make up a temendously talented group that serves as a major part of the Lady Bison team.
Lane believes this group will be able to lead the Lady Bisons to a successful 2005 season.
"Each of them bring so much to our team. While they all play different positions and have different roles they all love to play softball. It is a class that has a burning desire to win and are outstanding young ladies. It is interesting how each of them have different personalities, but they blend so well together to be the heartbeat of our team,"Lane said.
Pitcher Sara Meek came to Lipscomb after transferring from the University of Tennessee Chattanooga. After a brilliant high school career at Brentwood Academy, where she became Tennessee's all-time strikeout leader, Meek helped lead UTC to a conference championship and a berth in the NCAA playoffs. Meek wasted little time making an impact on the Lipscomb softball program during her Sophomore year in 2004. Meek not only was an outstanding pitcher, but also led the team in hitting with a .326 batting average. In the pitching circle Meek had a 1.87 era and led the Lady Bisons with 9 wins while starting 26 games and recording 140 strikeouts. Meek set Lipscomb Season Records with 32 games pitched; 26 games started; 22 complete games; 179.2 innings pitched; 140 strikeouts and a 1.87 era.
Lane thinks Meek can have an even better year in 2005.
"Sara did a great job for us last year. She gave us a chance to win so many games, but we just didn't score a lot of runs. We are confident that with our hitting lineup this season we will give Sara and our team a chance to have even more success. Sara showed what a good athlete she is by the way she hit the ball. Her batting average was a solid .325 and she had a huge hit in maybe the biggest win in program history against top ranked Florida Atlantic. We love Sara's leadership. If it is team conditioning or putting in the extra work it takes to be successful she is always leading," Lane said.
Meek, a Marketing major, is the daughter of Steve and Jan Meek from Brentwood, Tennessee
Second baseman Lauren Parker came to Lipscomb after an outstanding career at Madison Academy in Madison, Alabama. Lauren helped lead Madison Academy to Alabama State Championships in both 2000 and 2001. During Parker's freshman season she hit .303 with 18 rbi's, scored 14 runs and recorded a .994 fielding percentage. In 2004, Parker hit .245 scored 12 runs and had a .970 fielding percentage. Over her career at Lipscomb, Parker has started in all 96 games. Parker is from Huntsville, Alabama.
Lane is glad Parker is a part of the Lady Bison program.
"I would take an entire team of Lauren Parker's. She is a terrific player, solid student, but most importantly an outstanding Christian young lady. On the softball field there is nobody any tougher or more competitive. It says it all when a player has started all 96 games of their career. It says they are tough and can fight through injures and they are an outstanding player that has earned the right to be in the line-up. You will not find anyone more consistent then Lauren, both on and off the field. ," Lane said.
Parker, a Management major, is the daughter of Bennie and Jan Parker from Huntsville, Alabama.
Centerfielder Candice McWherter came to Lipscomb after a brilliant two years with Neosho Community College. McWherter, from Tulsa, Oklahoma, helped lead Neosho to a 46-18 record and a 5th place finish at the Junior College National Championship. In 2004, McWheter hit .379 with 10 doubles and 3 triples while stealing 38-40 bases. McWherter earned honors by being named All-Conference in the Jayhawk Conference and All Region 6.
Lane is excited to see McWherter in centerfield for the Lady Bisons in 2005.
"We had a chance this fall to see Candice play for us and we once again realized how fortunate we are to have her as a part of our program. I really believe she can do some outstanding things for us both at the plate and in centerfield. She is such a pleasure to be around and always brings everybody up whenever she comes in a room. I am not going to spend once second thinking about she is only going to be here for two years, but just spend the next two years enjoying watching her play for our program.", Lane said.
McWherter, an Exercise Science major, is the daughter of Philip and Kendy McWherter of Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Ashley Villalpando signed with the Lady Bisons after two successful years at St. Petersburg Community College. Villalpando, from Houston, Texas, will see action this season in the infield and serve as one the Lady Bison catchers. While at St. Petersburg, Villalpando hit .356 her freshman season and .435 her sophomore season. She was named both first team All-Conference and All-State. Villalpando was also named St. Petersburg's Most Valuable Player. Villalpando has worked hard to return to the Lady Bison lineup after undergoing knee surgery in the fall.
Lane is looking forward to having Villalpando in the hitting lineup.
"Ashley has worked very hard to return from her injury and we are excited about having her back. She is a very strong player and an outstanding hitter. We signed Ashley because of her leadership skills and we feel like she will be able to drive in some runs. Sometimes it is tough making the adjustment when you transfer in, but Ashley has done as good of job as any athlete we have every had here at Lipscomb. With everything she had to battle last semester and to be able to succeed in the classroom like she did was amazing. It just goes to show you that Ashley is a solid individual that is going to be successful after she finishes her degree.", Lane said.
Villalpando, an Exercise Science major, is the daughter of Johnny and Diana Villalpando of Houston, Texas.
The 2005 season will the first for Jessica Wilson in a Lady Bison uniform. After a brillant career at Brentwood High School, Wilson signed to play with the University of Tennessee. During her freshman season with the Lady Vols, Wilson helped Tennessee to an impressive 42-25 record. Wilson, from Brentwood, Tennessee, was named All-District and to the All-District Tournament team while at Brentwood High School.
Lane could not be prouder of having Wilson a part of the Lipscomb program.
"What a great addition Jessica Wilson has been to our program. As a player, as a student and most importantly as a person. We couldn't be happier with Jessica transfering into our program. She had an outstanding semester academically posting a 4.0, she is such a hard worker that looks to improve each day and she is an outstanding Christian that we love having represent us. On top of all that she can rip the cover off the ball which is going to help us score some runs this year. We look forward to giving her an opportunity to play against some top teams and have fun playing a game that she loves," Lane said.
Wilson, a Psychology major, is the daugther of Wayne and Jo Wilson from Brentwood, Tennessee.
Anna Cleland, from Dorris, California, signed with the Lady Bisons after playing one season with Shasta Community College. While at Shasta, Cleland hit .304. During her senior season at Butte Valley High School she hit .590 with 5 homeruns and was named to the all-conference team. In 2004 she played in 10 games for the Lady Bisons.
Lane said Cleland sets an outstanding tone for her teammates.
"Anna works as hard as any player we have in our program. She has set several program records in the weightroom and continues to work on her game on the field. Anna is the type of athlete that you never question her effort and you know that she is going to leave everything she has on the field. Anna has done a great job in the classroom and is very serious minded about her studies," Lane said.
Cleland, an Exercise Science Major, is the daughter of Rennie and Susan Cleland of Dorris, California.
Lane is looking forward to the 2005 junior class taking the field.
"One of the exciting things about 2005 is thinking about the impact this class can make. Not only are they outstanding players, but great people who come from terrific families. Everyone is excited about taking the field and this class can help make a lot of dreams come true."