The 2015 high school softball season was an excellent one for Fort Collins-area teams.
Three Class 5A schools made the 16-team state tournament, with Fossil Ridge advancing to the semifinals and Rocky Mountain the quarterfinals.
Windsor joined the state party in 4A.
The trick will be repeating that success in 2016. With that in mind, here’s a look at what to watch this season.
Can Fossil Ridge continue its run?
The SaberCats enter the season ranked No. 4 in 5A in the CHSAANow.com preseason poll thanks to their recent success. Fossil Ridge has made the Final Four three years in a row and has more wins (96) than any other 5A team in the last five years.
This Fossil Ridge team is young, with just two returning seniors. All-conference pitcher Megan Jamison is back, as is outfielder Grace Philop. Rheanna Will is a two-year starter at first, while Mia Moddlemog returns after starting in the outfield as a freshman. Coach Dave Philop also expects several freshman to contribute.
How do other city teams stack up?
Fossil Ridge’s recent history makes the SaberCats the headliner, but the rest of the city is loaded with talent.
Rocky Mountain went 17-6, making the state quarterfinals last year. The Lobos graduated most of their infield, but still has strong talent returning. Rocky Mountain’s top two pitchers in Kelli Schueler and Brenli Hammer will provide strength in the pitching circle. Seniors Jennah Thompson, Hanna Gates, Katie Haugen and Sidney Organ will help blend experience with the youth.
Fort Collins went 15-7 last year, losing in the first round of the state tournament. The Lambkins know they have strength in the circle with the return of Ciana Curran, who went 4-3 with a 2.78 ERA and 64 strikeouts in 55.1 innings last year. Senior twins Hana and Kayla Mawlawi, juniors Bailey Deal, Ryleigh Seale and Jenn Dudash and sophomore Emmy Anderson provide the core of a strong team.
Poudre went from three wins in 2014 to six last season and the upward trajectory looks to continue. The Impalas only graduated three players and return their two biggest stars. Junior Arianna Cordova led the team in average (.529), doubles (four), and RBIs (20) last season. Katie McCarthy was second behind Cordova in most hitting categories and won four games in the circle.
Can Windsor return to state?
The Wizards went 13-9 last year, losing in the first round of the 4A tournament.
Janae Cameron is the top returning hitter. Jordyn Cook, Michaela Moran and Tucker Pebley will help Windsor in its fight for a conference title and another state berth.
Follow sports reporter Kevin Lytle at twitter.com/Kevin_Lytle and at facebook.com/KevinSLytle.