2020 Results: Season canceled due to COVID-19
The Princeton softball team has been struggling to get over the hump for the past decade.
“Our history in Princeton for softball is not the best,” said senior catcher, Rylie Turnquist.
Entering into the new season for the Tigers’ softball team, a new coach aims to bring Princeton back to relevance on the diamond as Katie Uittenbogaard will take over as head coach for the team.
Uittenbogaard, who played four years of collegiate softball at Northern State in North Dakota, was hired last year to run the Princeton program but due to COVID-19 had to wait until 2021 to make her debut coaching for the Tigers.
With Princeton being Uittenbogaard first varsity head coaching position, she already has plans to turn the team around. Though this is Uittenbogaard’s first head coaching position, she does have experience coaching summer teams as well as a year of varsity assistant coaching from a position in Florida.
Drawing from her playing history, Uittenbogaard aims to make the Tigers a tight-knit group on and off the field. “We have to create a family and have that chemistry off the field first in order to play well together. It’s building those relationships and having those kids know they are playing with their friends and that they aren’t just playing next to someone for a couple years. They are making a lifelong friend out of it because it is those teams that I have been a part of that are families and were all friends off the field that were successful,” she said.
The focus on building team camaraderie has brought new energy into the program according to Turnquist. “It just feels new again. I’m excited to have her as a coach, she is really allowing us to bond as a team and that is most important to being successful is being able to be a family,” said Turnquist, the only Princeton player returning with varsity experience.
Taking over the Princeton program in her debut season, Uittenbogaard will be presented with a very young team as Kailey Sullivan will be the only other senior on the roster for the team. “We are basically a new team for varsity,” said Sullivan.
Even with the young Tigers team taking the field, it gives Princeton a carefree attitude going into the season according to Turnquist as the squad looks to take advantage of the lack of pressure. “We don’t have much expectations, we are an underdog. There is no pressure on us; that’s going to be really big for making it a fun season. It will give us a good chance in games and not make it so stressful allow us to accomplish our goals,” she said.
Paired with the youth is a fair share of athleticism that Uittenbogaard plans to mix with the talent as the season goes on to find what is successful for the team. “It’s going to be mixing girls up and seeing what works together as that winning combination as we go through the year,” said Uittenbogaard.
With the younger players being thrust into big roles, Sullivan is already picking up on her coach’s philosophy. “We are all just going to support each other. There are going be bumps but we are going to get past them one day at a time,” said Sullivan.
Looking to goals for the team, Uittenbogaard wants the team to become closer and buy into her system. A winning record for Princeton would demonstrate that said the rookie coach. “Ending with a winning season is how we determine that the process worked. That is how I can show the girls that they trusted me to lead them the right way and all the little steps came to the culmination of having a winning season.”
Princeton and Uittenbogaard got the opportunity to turn the program around starting April 10 as Duluth Denfeld came to town.