Story by Stephen Wise, Poto courtesy of GoFlashWin

After a second-round exit in the 5A playoffs last season, Dutch Fork softball announced William Voelker as its head coach. That coaching change has already paid off, as the team is in a position to make a run in the playoffs. With an increase in overall team chemistry, the mental mistakes the team made last year have been cut back, fostering a sense of confidence in their ability that’s kicking in during the most important stretch in the season.

“Voelker was originally the JV coach, but after our old coach stopped coaching, he moved up to take the head job,” sophomore Lauren Beatson said, “He’s really gotten us to play as a team, and has put more focus on us and our skills.”

Voelker has installed changes within the program to foster success, including adjusting practice styles.

“We practice separately from JV now, and that gets the different teams to learn to work together, and it develops chemistry,” sophomore Kelcy Putlock said, “Also every practice the seniors talk to us afterward and make sure everyone does their job.”

The seniors have been tasked with assuming a more vocal leadership role, which has created a greater sense of accountability among the team as a whole.

“Well I play shortstop and it’s a leadership role on the field. You have to be in control regarding playing but also lead the team and keep everyone up,” senior Madison Stone said, “Coach has given me and the other senior the role of keeping the energy up and staying focused and in the game.”

The underclassmen on the team recognize and appreciate the role the seniors have played in facilitating the confidence and chemistry on the team.

“I would say that right now our seniors are our captains and they take control of the situations,” Lauren said, “Madison has improved her confidence and she’s so upbeat and if you get down she picks you up. That’s been a big help.”

The difference in team chemistry is very noticeable, Kelcy says, and the team gets along more due to the coach putting more leadership responsibilities on the seniors.

From last season to this season, the team has begun to play much better, working as a unit to fix mistakes, and with the seniors tasked with not allowing drama to break up team chemistry. With more intense practices, the issues the team has are focused on by Voelker, and the team works to eliminate them in order to win more games.

“Everyone knows their skill level and we can work together as a team and adjust to difficulty has made it a lot easier,” Madison said, “skill-wise we have been able to eliminate our issues. We’ve been better on defense, more positions are being filled, and just all around have gotten better as a team.”