Lady Toppers hit the road to kick off season

Kyle Williams

The Lady Toppers are set to begin the softball season this weekend with four games in the Bulldog Battle in Starkville, Miss.

WKU was picked sixth in the Sun Belt Conference preseason coaches poll, but coach Tyra Perry says the Lady Toppers aren’t paying attention to any predictions.

“Preseason polls are just people’s opinions,” Perry said. “We’ve decided it’s a great opportunity for us to come in and play spoiler.”

Louisiana-Lafayette received all nine first-place and 81 regular votes in the preseason coaches poll. WKU received 43 regular votes, five less than fifth-place North Texas and six less than fourth-place Troy.

Senior pitcher Mallorie Sulaski believes the lack of recognition can be an incentive for this year, and being ranked at the top means nothing.

“I always like being the underdog,” Sulaski said. “I think it’s just motivation for us.”

WKU has six seniors on the roster and returns all but two players from last year. Senior catcher Karavin Dew and junior outfielder Kelsie Mattox were named to the 2013 preseason All-Sun Belt Team.

The Lady Toppers finished the 2011-12 season 32-23-1 and 2-2 in the Sun Belt Tournament. WKU fell 2-4 to South Alabama in their final game.

Sulaski said senior leadership is a vital part of this year’s team.

“I think we have a ton of leadership,” Sulaski said. “We’re a really old team…we only lost two girls, so we’re pretty excited.”

Having nearly the same team as last year, Perry said team chemistry is a big part of the team this year.

“Our players get along on and off the field,” Perry said. “You don’t necessarily have to have that in order to win, but when you do it’s a lot more fun.”

The Lady Toppers are set to take on Murray State at noon and Northwestern State at 2 p.m. Friday in a season-opening double-header. They’ll face Lipscomb at 10 a.m. and Mississippi State at noon Saturday.

“I expect us to go out and play hard,” Perry said. “To execute our game plan, defensively we want to take care of the softball…offensively, we’re working to execute…and make sure we get runs across to score.”

Junior pitcher Emily Rousseau says the Lady Toppers have the ability and talent to be at the top in the Sun Belt.

“The goal is to be No. 1,” Rousseau said.

The Lady Toppers will return home to host the Holiday Inn Hilltopper Classic Feb. 22 at Buchanon Park.