Posted March 9, 2016
With the excitement of winter sports winding down, the focus now turns to UW-River Falls softball and first-year Head Coach Amber Dohlman.
The Falcons have started the season slow with a 2-6 record. All eight games were played Feb. 27-March 5 in the Luther Dome in Rochester, Minnesota.
For Dohlman, a former player, being back at UWRF is special.
“It’s obviously different from when I was here last,” she said. “It’s been five years since I’ve been here and the game has transitioned so much in that time period. We still have that mentality of that we are known for our hitting, we are known for being powerful, we are known for that, and that is not going to change.”
Dohlman takes over for Faye Perkins, who retired following last season. Perkins finished with over 500 wins as a softball coach and 479 at UW-River Falls, according to uwrfsports.com. Dohlman, who played for Perkins, said that her former coach laid the foundation and now the Falcons just have to get back to that dominating mentality.
“Going off of what she has established as a program,” Dohlman said, “I’d love to get back to the 2012-13 season where they were really dominant and really strong. It’s just getting that work ethic back, and getting that drive and competitiveness that we see throughout, and what she kind of had that established.”
The Falcons have three seniors on the team this year in Sarah Sorensen, Hannah Zurn and Abby Veloske. Dohlman said Sorensen is a player the team depends on. However, for the seniors the coaching transition can be tough.
“Sarah has been a two-year starter, and we’ve really utilized her as our leader,” Dohlman said. “It is a difference, and a change for them, in their final year to have to adjust to all of this new stuff and they have done great with it. We have redone some of the defense and a lot of the offense. So it’s been a transition for them, but they have handled it really well and I think they are excited about it because they are seeing opportunities.”
Sorensen, who has started all eight games this season, said the program is in good hands.
“I think that Coach Dohlman and (Assistant) Coach (Sarah) Fern have brought a lot of new things to this team,” Sorensen said. “They both have Falcon blood in their background, which I think helps. They know how this program has been run in the past and I think they have great coaching styles that build upon the program. We have the talent to be great, but I think everyone needs to find their own greatness and bring it to the team with confidence.”
The Falcons now shift their focus to a spring break road trip to Florida, where the team will compete in the PFX Games. Dohlman said they don’t expect to win every one of the scheduled 10 games, but that their time in Florida is important to gaining confidence as a group.
“I think if we go .500, we will have a good spring break,” she said. :For us our ultimate goal is the conference tournament, so what we do from this point until the first weekend in May is in preparation for the tournament. There is a lot of learning going on, so some of the games have not necessarily gone the way we want them to go, but what can we take from it as a learning point.”
Sorensen said the spring break trip always brings the team together in one way or another.
“The spring break trip is always great because this is when the team finally starts coming together. We get to be out in the warm weather and playing on an actual softball diamond, which is awesome,” she said. “We get to play teams we normally wouldn’t, which makes for great competition.”
Sorensen added: “My goal for the team in Florida is to get some wins under our belt coming into our conference play with confidence. The WIAC is very tough but I think we have a ton of talent on this team we just need everyone to believe it.”
The Falcons begin WIAC play April 9 against UW-Oshkosh, and have their first home game at 3 p.m. April 13 against UW-Eau Claire. UWRF last year made it to the WIAC conference tournament final game after just making it in the WIAC tournament as the sixth seed. The Falcons this year have a lot of work to get to that point again, but have the tools to make it happen.