Trent Schneider was excited for his first season as head coach of the Lodi softball team this spring. He was talking over for Allie Taylor, who left to take the head job at Edgewood College.
However, the season was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic before Schneider even had a chance to meet his team.
“Being a new coach, it has been tough,” Schneider said. “I didn’t get a chance to meet a lot of the girls, let alone see what their abilities are. I wanted to come in and try to change the culture of Lodi softball. So, not having a season has been a huge setback.”
Though he did not have a chance to work with his players, Schneider liked all he had learned so far about his squad.
“We had a nice core of players returning from last season, including our top three pitchers, so I was excited to see where we stood in the league,” Schneider said. “I felt we had the potential to be in the top half of our division.”
The Blue Devils went 6-16 during Taylor’s only season as coach last year.
Lodi finished sixth in the Capitol North Conference after going 1-9. Poynette claimed the conference crown with a 10-0 mark, followed by Lake Mills (7-3), Lakeside Lutheran (6-4), Columbus (4-6), Watertown Luther Prep (2-8) and Lodi.
The Lady Blue Devils lost their WIAA Regional opener 2-1 to McFarland last season.
“I wasn’t the coach last season, but I have followed the team as I am a Lodi sports fan,” Schneider said. “I thought they had a very productive season last year. From the beginning to the end of the season, they showed great improvement and it showed as they gave a good McFarland team all they could handle in regionals last year.”
Even though he was not able to meet with his new team, Schneider has been keeping in touch with his players.
“We use Instateam to communicate as a team,” Schneider said. “I try to send out multiple weekly communications to them. We have done team activities and workouts through instantaneous team. I’ve asked them to send messages of what they do or post pictures of them working out or doing softball activities, so the girls can see what everyone is doing.”
The Blue Devils were expected to be led this season by their six seniors, including Adriana Lee, Olivia Kurt, Trinity Kurt, Sam Mori, Alissa Schreiber and Keesha Thomas.
“I didn’t know all of them well, but I was planning on leaning heavily on these six girls for leadership and enthusiasm,” Schneider said. “Each of them would have played key roles on this team. We couldn’t have success without leadership.”
Schneider is not sure how losing a full season will affect Lodi’s underclassmen.
“Obviously, losing a full season is going to hurt the growth of any team,” Schneider said. “I do feel we have a young, up and coming team. I think six or seven sophomores and freshmen had a chance to play at the varsity level this season, so of course not being able to compete at a young age will make them wait and see what the varsity level is all about until next year. My hope is the entire group of returnees continues to work on their skills on their own, until we can start getting games in again.”
The WIAA is allowing for a 30-day contact period this summer for all spring sports teams, but Capitol Conference schools have chosen not to participate.
The Blue Devils will get in some work this summer, as Schneider says a number of his players will play in summer leagues.
“We have multiple girls that are multi-sport athletes, so we plan to play our regular summer ball season with a few extra games on the side,” Schneider said. “I will use that to get to know the girls and to get an idea of what they can and can’t do. It’s also a good chance for them to get to know me and understand the style I want them to play.”
After losing his first season with the team, Schneider is excited to get next season started as soon as possible.
“After losing a full season, I think there will be a very high level of excitement next year,” Schneider said. “Maybe a new level of appreciation as well.”