Falcons lose eight seniors from last season, but brings back a trio of Northwest Oregon Conference all-stars

Liberty softball coach Nolan Meeuwsen has the luxury of returning three all-league players from last year’s team, but he also has the daunting task of replacing eight important HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: CHASE ALLGOOD - Liberty senior Ashley Driscoll was a second team all-league selection last year as a pitcher and will be the only senior on this year's team.

Three freshmen and three juniors with limited varsity experience will be tasked with filling the void left by those graduated seniors, and Meeuwsen said they will have to learn on the fly.

“For some of these new kids it’s a little like trying to drink from a fire hose,” he said. “There’s a lot to learn still. For these newcomers, they have to learn the way I coach and the way the game is played at this level. It’s a faster-paced game with better pitching and better hitters. It’s a lot different than JV.”

While those newbies learn the ropes, Meeuwsen will lean on pitcher Ashley Driscoll — the team’s lone senior this year — and catcher Paige Smotherman, both second team all-league picks last year. The coach will also rely heavily on his daughter, Kelly Meeuwsen, the reigning NWOC player of the year and a Class 5A all-state selection.

Elsewhere, junior third baseman Chandie Perez and junior second baseman Nicole Katyryniuk both have varsity experience from a year ago.

“We certainly have enough pieces back,” Nolan Meeuwsen said. “We have a core group of five young ladies that are a very strong unit with very strong leadership abilities. There will be some growing and learning experiences that the new folks will undertake, but I think we’ll smooth out the rough edges.”

Among the new faces will be juniors Sophia Coalwell (outfield), Riley Hays (outfield) and Tiffany Candlish (utility), all of whom played JV last year, plus a trio of precocious freshmen — Maija Sands (first base/catcher), Kelsey Damm (outfield) and Riley Driscoll (outfield).

“I think we’ll be in the hunt somewhere,” Meeuwsen said. “I think there’s enough sticks in the lineup for us to play with anyone in the league or the state.”

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