The upcoming 2019 season brings new faces and new expectations to the University of Nebraska at Omaha softball team.
Last season, the team finished with a 20-31 record last year and were one game away from playing for the Summit League Championship title.
However, at the end of the season, Maverick head coach DJ Sanchez announced that she would be stepping down. Sanchez had been the coach for the Mavericks for the past two seasons.
In July 2018, Amanda Rivera-Eberhart was announced as the new head coach of the Mavericks.
Rivera-Eberhart brings plenty of experience with her to the team. Before coaching at Omaha, Rivera-Eberhart was an assistant at Purdue University for two years. Before coaching at Purdue, she was head coach of IUPUI for four years. In 2016, Rivera-Eberhart led the Jaguars to the Summit League Championship game.
The combination of coaching at a Power 5 school and a Summit League school should prove invaluable for Rivera-Eberhart and the Mavericks this season. This is experience that Omaha will certainly need this season as they face a difficult schedule.
The Mavericks start the season by competing in the Scrap Yard Tournament in Conroe, Texas. There, Omaha will play teams the likes of Wisconsin, Texas Tech, and Nebraska. All three teams finished in the top 75 of the RPI rankings last season. Omaha finished in 209th place.
The rest of the season does not get much easier for the Mavericks afterwards. Omaha will have to face six teams this season that competed in the NCAA tournament last season. Two of those teams, Georgia and Arkansas, start the season ranked in the in the top 15 in the nation.
The hope for the Mavericks this season should be that a difficult non-conference schedule can help prepare the team for a strong showing in Summit League play. While the team was picked to finish fifth in the pre-season in the Summit League, there is no reason to doubt that this team can go even further.
Important players who can help Omaha achieve success this season are Natalie Mostek and Sydney Hampton. Both were named in the Summit League’s pre-season Player to Watch List.
Mostek was the starting catcher for most of the Maverick games last season. Mostek was also one of Omaha’s better hitters last season. She was tied for second on the team for home runs with 7.
As a freshman pitcher last season, Hampton finished third in the Summit League for wins. Hampton also had the lowest ERA on the Omaha team with 3.74.
With several standout players returning from last year and a with a new and exciting coach at the helm, the pieces seem to be in place for a successful season. With any luck, this team could make another run at getting to the Summit League championship game, or perhaps even, go a little further than that.
The Mavericks will kick off the season with two games in Conroe, Texas on Feb. 8 against Wisconsin and Texas Tech.