Showcasing a lineup packed with resilient defensive players and skilled hitters, the Cyclones have a chance to contend for championships in 2017.

This year has one of the more robust rosters with 17 players, 13 of whom are newcomers. One of those missing from the crew this season is the 2016 Illinois Skyway Collegiate Conference Pitcher of the Year, Hannah Thielmann. She played two impressive seasons with the Cyclones and will be missed. The Cyclones don’t have a matching replacement. However, sophomores Sam Owens (Stagg) and Emily Janozik (Queen of Peace) will help lead this talented group at first base and catcher, respectively. An All-Conference and All-Region player, Owens averaged .565 at the plate with 21 RBIs last season and is expected to be a threat at the plate and first base again. Janozik was a wall behind the plate and will be the starting catcher.

Among the newcomers is Hayley Franks (Marist), who will play third base and fill in at first or catcher. Her hard-work ethic, speed on the bags and notable reaction time on the field will help lead the Cyclones. Alyssa Bresnahan (Andrew), at shortstop, has the speed and expansive range to help keep the infield tight on the left side with Franks. Samantha Waller (Richards) is a transfer student from Hope College, who joins the team as a designated hitter. She has a smooth swing and can consistently place the ball to any part of the field. Sisters Kortney and Kirsten Chase (Eisenhower) are teammates again after the fall Cyclone volleyball season and should make an impact. Kortney will see time pitching as well as at second base or outfield. Kirsten will the lead the outfield with her speed and good read on the ball.

“I think we’ve come together and gelled in pre-season. Our defense and hitting have tremendously improved from last season. Because of that, we can still contend for conference and a final four,” said head Coach Natalie Wigginton, leading the Cyclones for her second season. She is joined again this season by assistant coach and former Cyclone, Ari Bulthius.

Looking back on 2016, Wigginton has a few goals in mind for 2017. They won’t leave as many runners on base in scoring position, which happened too often last year, and they’re working on more discipline at the plate and more aggression on the bases. Combined with solid defense, stringing hits together and producing runs when needed, the Cyclones should have a good run.

“I want them to play as a team,” Wigginton said. “I want every game to be played better than the last. We’re going to have a good season.”