BARSTOW • Barstow Community College head softball coach Jennie Fregoso is spending these early-season days imparting a philosophy with which her players are likely unfamiliar.
"One thing I am constantly getting the athletes to understand is, that it doesn't matter if you win, all that matters is that you are learning from your mistakes and growing as an athlete and team," the coach said after a recent practice. "There are far too many coaches out there that are too concerned with their win/loss record and they forget that the athletes are students and they will move on, and they will have to work for what they want."
Not the usual kind of talk one hears from a coach about to embark on a new season. Fregoso, however, is speaking from the experience of a frustrating few months. The former Lady Vikings softball standout always wanted to come back to BCC not only to teach, but to take the reins of an often-turbulent softball program. She did that last year, her first as head coach, a season she spent trying to instill her philosophies of softball and student life into her players. Now she's back for her sophomore season, trying to build on the groundwork she laid last year.
It hasn't always been smooth sailing. After taking over just before last year's first game, this off-season gave Fregoso her first opportunity to recruit and construct her own team. She went at the task eagerly, but it hasn't played out like she had hoped.
"I did a great job with recruiting this past summer, but there were so many excuses by the athletes that it was almost impossible to keep track of. It really is difficult to develop a team when I have athletes come out to BCC that are originally committed to staying, and then lose that sense of responsibility," she said. "We have a freshman team this year, due to returning sophomores not being eligible. We also only have at this moment 10 athletes on the team. This is also due to multiple athletes quitting for work, school, and or just not wanting to play anymore.
"I had recruited the largest group ever for BCC this past fall, with 27 players total. I over-recruited because I expected difficulties, due to keeping girls on my roster."
Unfortunately, those difficulties played out, with prospective team members dropping out along the way. A positive is that the coach is happy with the work ethic her current players bring to the squad.
"The athletes I have now are learning and they are taking it in stride," said Fregoso. "They all understand that the program isn't going to change overnight, but they have the opportunity to say that they helped get it to where it is."
Fregoso in many instances had to start with the basics this winter.
"One of the most difficult coaching issues I have dealt with is the fact that some athletes have had previous bad experiences with coaches, and/or have bad habits that were not broken at the high school level. So trying to break them of these thoughts and habits at a later time in their softball careers has been my biggest challenge," said the coach. "I have a new staff because I wanted to start things fresh, and the coaches are also athletes who played softball at BCC the first year of the program, in '05-06. They bring in experience not only on the BCC side, but on the life-experience side. They also have the same philosophy as me and share the same goals."
Serving as assistant coaches are Rebecca Rodriguez and Jessica Marquez.
The Lady Vikings have gotten some game experience in the early going, participating in the San Diego City College Tournament last week. Though BCC went winless, catcher and Barstow High School grad Tessa Saenz was a standout, and was named to the All-Conference Team.
Completing the battery for the 2013 Lady Vikings are pitchers Alexis Conant and Elise Westbury. Conant is out of Silverado High School, and Westbury from Victor Valley Christian. Rounding out the infield are Alexis Davis and Kayla Devault, both also from Silverado, and Shelby Setter, out of ACE.
"Alexis is our starting pitcher and has excellent movement on the ball, and her change-up has been stellar. Elise, who has a little more speed, will pitch when needed," said coach Fregoso. "Davis has moved to shortstop from second base. She's growing in the position and is doing well with the change. Kayla, our first baseman, has her height going for her. She's 5'10" and has good reach, which helps with high throws. Shelby is at second base, but is an athlete who can play anywhere. She takes on any challenge when asked, and doesn't hesitate even if she doesn't care for that position."
The BCC outfielders are Stephanie Mesa, from Silver Valley, Megan Carr, from AAE, Kelli Bolduc, from ACE, and Zolia Hernandez, of Riverside Prep.
"Stephanie was an infielder, but I moved her to leftfield because of her speed and great arm. She's done a great job in left, but will also fill in at second base. Kelli was also moved; originally a first baseman, she moved to where she was needed and has made major improvements in the outfield," said Fregoso. "Megan is our fastest athlete and excels in centerfield. Zoila is our starting rightfielder and has grown the most in her position since the fall. She's learning every day and takes advice when needed."
Carr was hit in the face with a foul ball last week and is currently injured, but is expected back before the team's first home game.
The Lady Vikings are so far winless in the preseason, but Fregoso is pleased with the progress her players have made. She thinks that the ones who have stuck around will prove to be a dedicated bunch interested in taking the program to the next level.
"We haven't had a win yet, but I have seen major improvement. I try to stress that being in a winning program will only get you so far. You have to strive to change yourself, and then the teamwork aspect will follow," said the coach. "I definitely think my philosophy is very difficult to get through at times, because all players see around them is that winning and a great record is what proves who you are as a team and a coach. That's not what I'm about."
Lady Vikings fans will get their first chance to see the team on March 1, when BCC hosts El Camino College-Compton Center for a doubleheader, at 12 and 2 p.m.