Softball plans to build on foundation of postseason recognition
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
Softball plans to build on foundation of postseason recognition
The final polls are being published and the Lipscomb Lady Bisons are one of the top 40 programs in the country by a consensus of voters.

In the Softball Collegiate Top 25 Poll the Lady Bisons are ranked 31st with 13 votes in the final poll. The USA Today/National Fastpitch Coaches Association’s poll rates the Lady Bisons 33rd nationally with 13 votes, only two votes behind Long Island in the 31st position.

The Lady Bisons finished 36th in the final NCAA Women’s Softball RPI for 2010.

The Lady Bisons finished with a 50-13 overall record. They won both the Atlantic Sun regular season championship and the A-Sun Tournament championship.

Lady Bisons’ coach Kristin Ryman calls the recognition a tribute to the team, especially the seniors _ Kellie Sirus, Lauren Dortwegt, Abby Keese, Christy Grisham, Alaina Jacobson and Christen Campbell.

“I think it shows how far this team has come,” Ryman said. “The class that just graduated saw the full transition of this program. “That is kind of cool for me. When they came into this program we had won 14 games the season before. By the end of their careers we won 50.”

Ryman stresses that the success of the Lady Bisons this past season, which ended in the NCAA Tuscaloosa Region championship game with Alabama, shows what a small Division I team can accomplish.

“Finishing in the mid-to-upper 30s in almost every poll shows what this program is capable of,” Ryman said. “There are a lot of people out there who haven’t heard about us, but I think people are starting to pay more attention.

“We are a program that is going to be recognized not just for a quality education, a Christian environment or a good softball program, but a program where you can get into the postseason. We can make a regional or a super regional."

Ryman, the 2010 Atlantic Sun Coach of the Year, and assistant coach Lexi Myers will be out on the recruiting trail this summer. The recognition this season will be a plus when meeting recruits.

“Lipscomb is such a great place,” Ryman said. “We always have the conversation about whether or not you can win at small Division I Christian school. We have proven that you can. Volleyball has proven that you can.

“We will be less of an unknown in recruiting. Having an All-American on our team in Whitney Kiihnl grabs the attention of people. A lot of people might not know where we are, but a lot more people have heard of Lipscomb now.”

Ryman’s goal is to make the program even better next season which will be a challenge because of the players she has lost. However, she still returns Kiihnl, Atlantic Sun Player and Pitcher of the Year; and A-Sun First Team All-Conference selections Mollie Mitchell, a catcher; and Courtney Billington, a shortstop.

“We have gotten to a good point with our program,” Ryman said. “I don’t think we feel 100 percent comfortable staying where we are. We want to get a shot at going to a super regional.

“Realistically, we graduated a key class… a record-breaking class. Did that hurt us? I’m not going to say that it didn’t. But I feel like we return quite a bit too. The group that we lost was so important to the success we have had the last four years, but the group that returns has also experienced that success. We have another really good foundation to build on.”

Kiihnl, Billington, Mitchell and outfielder Caroline Mason all made key contributions this season.

“The sophomore class stepped up so huge this year,” Ryman said. “Courtney made the transition from second to shortstop and was able to do so much hitting-wise. Mollie did so much behind the plate and in the batter’s box. What she did from a leadership standpoint was huge for us.

“Obviously Whitney helped propel us into postseason on the mound, but she also had a great year hitting-wise. Caroline Mason is back on the upward swing. She will continue to get better.”

Outfielder Mackenzie Tucker, who will be the sole senior on the team, was a major factor in postseason for the Lady Bisons.

“Mackenzie is capable of doing what she did in the tournaments,” Ryman said. “For Mackenzie it has always been a matter of consistency. She has proven that not only can she get the big hit once or twice, but that she can consistently hurt teams.

“UAB’s coach (Marla Townsend) is a good friend of mine. One of the people they pointed out was Mack and how she gave them headaches every time she came up to bat. I see her every day and know how I feel about her but to hear that from an opposing coach tells me she is at the point where the consistency has kicked in.”

Ryman also believes that her program can offer things that other programs can’t.

“Just because we are not a big name school doesn’t mean we can’t compete and doesn’t mean we don’t have good facilities and good people,” Ryman said. “One thing that can definitely separate us from some programs that are maybe more well-known is that we 100 percent have good people here.

“They have a coaching staff that genuinely cares about them. We have a group of players that are close and are good friends on and off of the field. They look out for each other. The faculty, administration and the support staff provide an environment that is so different than you might get in a lot of places.”

Written by Mark McGee, Senior Publisher/Director of Media Relations.