Western Dubuque softball

Western Dubuque’s 2019 varsity softball team: front from left, Jenna Hoefler, Jacie Walters, Hallie Wilgenbusch, Emma Gile, Olivia Hosch, Kaci Wolf and Meredith Hoerner; back row, Teresa Petsche, Ella Link, Lexi Banks, Amy Kane, Hanna Theisen, Sydney Kennedy, Sara Horsfield, Maddie Goodman and Claire Horsfield.

It’s going to be a new-look Western Dubuque softball team in 2019 after graduating seven senior starters from last year’s 20-14 team.

Coach Rachael Neal, in her eighth season at the helm, knows her team will have its hands full as the Bobcats transition from the predominately 3A WaMaC to one of the best 4A leagues in Iowa — the Mississippi Valley.

“This will be our first year in the MVC conference,” said Neal. “The league is loaded with talent and each team will be competitive.”

Replacing an experienced group of seniors is never easy, but Neal feels the returning talent — featuring four starters and nine letterwinners — plus a host of newcomers point to another strong season.

“We return a solid core of returners from last season,” Neal said.

Two all-conference players return. Junior utility player Ella Link was a second-team all-WaMaC honoree last year, and pitcher-utility player Sydney Kennedy is back for her sophomore season after earning second-team all-WaMaC honors in 2018.

Senior outfielder Jenna Hoefler is a returning starter, and junior Amy Kane again be shortstop. Returning letterwinners Emma Gile (catcher-utility), Jacie Walter (infield), Kaci Wolf (utility), Hanna Theisen (outfield) and Lexi Banks (outfield) will see playing time.

Neal, who has a record of 111-145 at Western Dubuque, lists sophomore pitcher Hallie Wilgenbusch and freshman hurler Meredith Hoerner as promising newcomers.

“Our program has great numbers,” said Neal. “The girls have been working hard in the offseason to prepare to compete in our first season in the MVC.”