By Jerod Young • Jerod Young • 

Seifert-era begins for McMinnville softball team

Athletic director Mark Hinthorn hired former West Salem and Linfield standout Courtney Seifert as the Grizzlies’ new softball coach. Seifert takes over for Kylee Nichols, who coached McMinnville in 2012.

“(The process) has been a great experience,” Seifert said. “It’s great being able to further build relationships with the varsity girls which I didn’t quite have before this.”

Seifert is currently a P.E. and health teacher at Patton Middle School but has coached softball at the junior varsity and junior varsity two level for the Grizzlies since 2008.

Seifert said she is excited to take the job because of her familiarity with the program. She said while she was not a full-time varsity coach, she would come over during the postseason to give McMinnville extra help and a fresh perspective.

She said it helped to improve her knowledge of the team.

“I really enjoyed that and had a great time doing it,” Seifert said. “As the head coach, I know what kind of girls I have. They are a fun group of girls who like to have fun and work hard.”

While she was surprised and thrilled to be offered the position, Seiftert said she was completely happy as an assistant coach with the Grizzlies. She admitted up until that point, she had no ambition to move up to be a head coach. She said working with the junior varsity was fulfilling but was excited to take the job because of her familiarity with the team and its history.

Seifert played for former McMinnville coach Larry Nichols at West Salem and said the two still talk.

“He helped show me what a serious and great program this is and can be,” Seifert said. “He was special through my career and for this program.”

Seifert inherits a Grizzlies team that went 11-16 last season under Kylee Nichols. They were 6-8 in the Pacific Conference and finished fifth. McMinnville won its play-in game vs. South Medford and made some noise in the playoffs. In the first round of the 6A state playoffs, the Grizzlies upset No. 1-seeded Redmond 5-4 on the road but lost in the second round at Aloha, 5-4.

Seifert said she is exited to bring back a team with not only veteran leadership but playoff experience. Seifert said it was a big factor in her decision to take the job.

The Grizzlies graduated three seniors last year and return 12 players from last year’s playoff roster. Despite losing three seniors, McMinnville has four seniors for the 2013 season: McKenzie Davis, Layne Pendleton, Allyson Ulbricht and Lauren Ulbricht.

Seifert said she not only expects their play to be much-improved in 2013, but she also said the four will be ready to take on a leadership role.

“You just see how excited these girls are,” Seifert said. “They are just ready to go. You can tell that this group has been waiting for this all year.”

Seifert said strong points for the Grizzlies throughout the season will be the senior leadership and McMinnville’s sophomores.

Samantha Hensley, a 2012 first-team all-conference selection, heads the class. Josie Smith was brought up from the JV after a solid year on the mound.

Makayla Katewoda started every game for McMinnville as its catcher last year and will return in the same role this season. All three return to the varsity team this year.

Seifert said she not only has a smart and skilled group of sophomores, but they are a group that is ready to learn.

“Makayla is a great kid, very coachable,” Seifert said. “As a whole, we have a great group of experienced sophomores who like to learn from the older players. I think our seniors really want to see them succeed.”

Other quality players like Jacinda Swiger, Kamrie Hoggard Marina Jorgensen, and Kristin King all return to head the junior class.

McMinnville’s weakness comes from not having a dominant pitcher to lead the staff. This issue creates multiple problems within a team. Seifert said practices are much more serious once the pitching drills begin.

Seifert said with all of the questions and inconsistencies that arise from this situation, the coaching staff will have to put in longer hours on game day.

“Because we lack the dominant pitcher,” Seifert said. “The coaches will have to get together on game day and formulate plans on who will start and who will come in for relief while keeping track of work and pitch count.”

Seifert said she is unsure at this point on whether or not there will be any major changes.

The biggest challenge for the Grizzlies as team will be their ability to adapt to a tough schedule. It’s a schedule that has McMinnville playing 13 of its 25 games on the road.

Any other team would see that as a challenging obstacle, but not the Grizzlies. Seifert said McMinnville would rather play on the road then at home if they had the option.

“My girls just prefer to play on the road,” said a laughing Seifert. “They would rather play on the road then have a home game. They like playing on the road. They feel like they play better on the road.”

Seifert said she thought the schedule was too road-heavy at first glance but said the players were excited about it. The Grizzlies will play five of their first six games on the road.

Last season McMinnville was 4-11 at home but owned a 7-5 record on the road.

With the amount of experience returning to the team, Seifert said it’s definitely possible for McMinnville to surpass its finish in last year’s state playoffs.

McMinnville plays its first game of the Courtney Seifert era at 5 p.m. today at Oregon City.

“These girls don’t just play three or four months out of the year,” Seifert said. “They’ve played since they were kids. This group has put in the work and hours and we hope that our varsity program is a culmination of that hard work.”

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