New coach hopes to keep softball team on a roll


Zoey Schentzel

SDSU pitcher Grace Glanzer pitches the ball in a softball exhibition game against St. Cloud state Sept. 25. Glanzer returns to a changed roster with aspirations of making the Women’s College World Series.

Bosten Morehart, Reporter

The Jackrabbit softball program has a new coach this year, but one thing the team hopes doesn’t change is its winning ways in recent years.

Former head coach Krista Wood took a job with Creighton this past June after eight seasons with the Jackrabbits. During her rebuild of the softball program, Wood had a record of 238-164, along with leading the team to the last two Summit League tournament championships.

Taking her position as head coach is Kristina McSweeney, who took over the team shortly after Wood resigned.

McSweeney had plenty of success at her last job at Arkansas Tech University. During her 10 seasons at ATU, she helped the team to its first-ever Great American Conference tournament title in 2018. Joining her on the coaching staff is associate head coach Josh Bertke, who was with her at ATU for two seasons. 

McSweeney felt like she had “kind of hit a ceiling,” winning four-straight conference tournaments and making it to the regional in the NCAA Divison II softball tournament in 2019. While looking for the right place to call home, she took an interview at SDSU.

“I came into my interview and just put it in the Lord’s hands telling him ‘If this is where you want me to be, then this is where I need to be,’” McSweeney said. 

When McSweeney got the job, she was very excited about the opportunity because of the atmosphere and environment of the university.

Pitcher Grace Glanzer said it was a surprise to everyone when Wood announced that she was leaving, but they did not let it affect them for too long.

“Our team would get Zoom calls going together and just figure out what page we were all on,” Glanzer said.

When assistant coach Brittany Gomez-Olson found out Wood was leaving, she did what she could for the team in the meantime. She said that while there was some worry within the team, they did a great job sticking together.

The Jackrabbits are returning all but one player from last season. The one player who is no longer with the team is infielder Cylie Halvorson, a former Summit League player of the year who transferred to Arkansas. 

Despite losing Halvorson, the Jackrabbits also gained another transfer from Arkansas Tech, as junior pitcher Shannon Lasley looks to add to an already-loaded pitching staff.

“We complement each other very well, but I definitely have to work very hard, as no spot is guaranteed,” Lasley said.

SDSU has played a few games this fall against Northern State, Dakota Wesleyan, St. Cloud State and Augustana so far, and Glanzer has noticed some changes in the team’s practices.

“I would say during practices last year it was more breaking things down nice and slow, versus now it is very intense and very high paced,” Glanzer said.

With the changes to the coaching staff, Gomez-Olson’s role as assistant coach has also changed. Although her roles have changed, she is not bothered by it, saying she has a little free reign to help where needed.

“Last year I just worked with the defense, and this year I am working with the outfield and slappers (left-handed hitters),” Gomez-Olson said. 

Both McSweeney and Lasley said that it was not a hard transition joining this team, as the team was “very welcoming and including.”

To make the transition easier for the team, McSweeney wanted to become close with the team as soon as she could. This summer, she and Bertke went on what they called the “road to get to know the Jacks.” On this trip, they traveled around South Dakota, Iowa, Minnesota and Nebraska to meet the players’ families and answer their questions.

The team’s recent success does not have McSweeney feeling pressured but rather “challenged.” Her big goal is to make it to the Division I Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City, and she wants the team to have the same goal.

“My goal here is to try to take them to that next step,” McSweeney said. “It is a big dream, but I want them to stop thinking so small-minded and look at the bigger picture.”

Gomez-Olson said that last year, the Jacks did not find themselves with runners on base that often off of hits and added that if the team is able to get more runners on the bases and score more runs, they will have a good shot at the Women’s College World Series.

Not only do the coaches want the team to make it to OKC, but the players do as well. For Lasley on a personal level, she would like to make it to the Division I regional because she has never been there before. 

When asked about personal and team goals, Glanzer said that they go hand and hand with her. She mentioned the team’s next big goal is making the Women’s College World Series. 

“I want to make it to regionals, but I think our next big goal that we have been talking about is the Women’s College World Series,” Glanzer said. “I mean it’s attainable if we really set our mind to it, and I think just taking it a step further.”