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After rough start, Gophers look for improvement in return to South Atlantic

Last weekend, Minnesota went 2-2 in four games in North Carolina.

Minnesota’s softball team heads to South Carolina this weekend trying to improve on a disappointing start to the season.

The Gophers are 2-6, their worst start since 1994 when the team began the season 2-7.

But the team isn’t going to get over-concerned about the start, co-coach Julie Standering said; it’s not Big Ten season yet.

Instead, the Gophers will use the Coastal Carolina University Softball Classic, in which their first game is at 12:30 p.m. today against Pittsburgh, to figure out what everyone on the team plans to contribute this season.

And Standering said that task will be harder this year than it has been in the past, because everyone is making an impact.

“It’s different because every one of our incoming freshmen are contributing in some way to this team,” Standering said. “Nobody’s role is completely defined, we’re just trying to figure things out before we get too far into the season.”

And the first step in that process is communication, Standering said.

Minnesota returns only one player from last year’s starting infield, senior Valerie Alston at second base, so creating a working chemistry in the infield will be important for the Gophers.

“Anytime you have three new people and different people at different positions all around you, it’s going to be a hard change,” Alston said. “But we’re just focused right now on getting to know everyone a little bit better each weekend and improving from there.”

But, the job of familiarizing yourself to new people and new situations is more difficult in softball because of the variables, co-coach Lisa Bernstein said.

“In softball, every single pitch brings a new situation,” Bernstein said. “It’s a constant working progress because one minute a bunt will go here and then a slap bunt will go there, you just need to know where your teammates are on the field.”

Adding complication to the process has been Minnesota’s 2-6 start. Although the team said they aren’t too concerned about it, they are looking for retribution in the form of wins.

And there is a more specific target of revenge this weekend, as the Gophers set their sights on tournament host Costal Carolina.

The Chanticleers handed the Gophers a 7-1 loss last weekend at the Triangle Classic in Chapel Hill, N.C. Minnesota plays Coastal Carolina at 2 p.m. today as the second half of a doubleheader.

The Gophers hope to use the game to clear up one tiny misunderstanding ‘ they aren’t your average 2-6 team.

“We didn’t feel like we played well against them,” Alston said. “So it’s definitely a kick in the gut that we didn’t play well, and they beat us badly. So, we want to come out, play well and prove that we’re a better team than we’ve been showing.”

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