MANISTIQUE - With a brand-new head coach and 10 new players on the roster, the Manistique Emeralds are hoping to improve on their .500 record (18-18) from a season ago.
Jessica Nord will be taking up coaching duties for the Emeralds in 2013. While she was an assistant coach last year in Oconto Falls, Wis., this is her first head coaching position, and she faces the task of getting to know her players personally while also trying to learn their strengths and weaknesses. But Nord is confident in what she has seen so far.
"I think we can play well with anybody," she said. "We are definitely able to compete. We are young, but fundamentally we're a lot further ahead than I thought we would be. We'll see how good we are on Friday when we play Gladstone."
Returning to the team this year is their senior pitching ace, Haley MacGregor. She is joined by fellow seniors Niki Walters, Kelsey Gonyea, and Cayla Strasser, and sophomores Sam Williams, Sami Walters, and Kelsey Morgan, who hope to collectively push the team forward into the win column this season.
There is a slew of young players joining the Emeralds varsity squad this year. Bri Richey, Lindsay Knuth, Sydney Chartier, Allie Nagy, Allie McKinney, Ashley Menominee, Jamie Erickson, Madison Russell, and Amanda Ziminski round out the nine freshman on the team. Also added is senior Sam Lyntz.
With such a large group of essentially unknown talent combining with the seven returning veterans, many of the players on the starting lineup will take the field for the first time together. However, Nord doesn't think that is going to be an issue for them.
March 29-30 - Spring Swing Tournament at Marquette;
April 9 - at Norway; April 11 - Rapid River; April 15 - Westwood; April 17 - at Negaunee; April 18 - Ishpeming; April 22 - at Munising; April 25 - Negaunee; April 29 - at Gwinn.
May 1 - at Rapid River; May 7 - Gwinn; May 11 - at Escanaba Invitational; May 13 - at Stephenson; May 15 - Norway; May 16 - at Newberry; May 18 - Emerald tournament; May 22 - at Westwood.
"They really do mesh well together," she said. "None of then think they are entitled to anything, and they get along well with the underclassmen."
Nord added that right from the start of practice, Gonyea and Strasser sort of took the ropes and helped some of the younger players get acquainted with the routine.
"They are good leaders," she said.
Coming into a new program, Nord naturally faces some challenges. But although she has had to adjust to a lot of changes, one thing that remains the same is her love of the game and her will to compete.
"Ultimately, I want to win because I am a competitive person," she said. "But if everyone is happy with the way they performed at the end of the day and they gave it their all, that's almost better than winning."
Manistique is set to kick off their season this weekend at the Spring Swing Tournament in Marquette.
"The thing I am looking forward to most (about playing this weekend) is seeing how my team works when they play against another team," Nord said. "They have scrimmaged against each other, but when they are in real game competition, who knows what's going to happen."