After last year’s conference championship, Moraine Valley Community College softball is looking to repeat its success with several players from that team and a crew of talented newcomers.

Head Coach Ari Bulthuis is excited to see what her team can do but knows the bar has been raised after a successful first year leading the program.

“There is pressure for sure after winning a conference championship in the first season after the pandemic. Your standard is higher now, and you don’t want to disappoint,” said Bulthuis, who also was named Illinois Skyway Collegiate Conference Coach of the Year. “Now that we won a championship, we want to keep progressing.”

The 2021 Cyclones finished 14-18 overall, but 10-2 in the Skyway for the shared crown with McHenry County College. Seven athletes from that winning squad are back along with six freshmen and two transfers.

Back for a third season, allowed because of NJCAA COVID-19 extensions, are All-Conference players Brianna Dvorak (Sandburg) and Abbie Wantroba (Sandburg). All-Conference and All-Region player Danielle Travis (Lockport Township) also returns to the lineup with All-Conference honorable mention leadoff hitter Kara Riordan (Lockport Township). Travis and Riordan were the top batters last season, averaging a .467 and .404, respectively. Ashley Roberts (Homewood-Flossmoor) pitched for the Cyclones last year and has worked hard in the offseason to up her game. Haley Garza (Reavis) and Alexandria Palumbo (Richards) also are back to help the cause.

At least three of the incoming freshmen were on a top 25 players to watch list in high school – Infielder/utility player Arianna Andersen (Oak Lawn), infielder/pitcher Emily Madrigal (Shepard) and infielder/utility player Emily Manso (Evergreen Park). They’ll make an impact in the field and at the plate.

The team has a little more flexibility to practice than last season with more eased pandemic rules, giving them more conditioning and bonding time together.

“I tell them we are family, and if something is wrong or broken, we fix it. That’s how it was when I played,” Bulthuis explained. “It’s a team sport. We want to support each other. They’ve been doing that well so far.”

Of course, the Cyclones have an eye on repeating as Skyway champs. Although Bulthuis would love to go even further, she’s not getting too greedy in her second season as coach. She would like for her crew to compete at regionals, something the third-year players haven’t been able to do yet because of pandemic restrictions.

“I’m feeling good about the season. We have a good team. We have versatile and strong players, and I’m going to do what’s best for the team,” Bulthuis said. “Everyone is essential. I believe we have a team that can win again. They have heart for the game, and they show up. It’s all I can ask for.”

Bulthuis is joined again by Assistant Coach Jen Vanek and new assistant Sam Owens. All three coaches played softball at Moraine Valley.

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For news media inquiries, contact Maura Vizza, Moraine Valley communications specialist and sports information coordinator, at (708) 974-5742 or