The UCSB softball team opened the 2001 season on a rocky note after falling to Loyola Marymount this past weekend, but there are still high hopes for the season.

A refurbished field, fresh faces and a determined attitude will all be important elements to build on last year’s success. The young, talented Gauchos will compete with the deck they are dealt, despite losing four high-caliber weapons in the lineup.

“This year we are going to have to work together to win,” junior second baseman and co-captain Kim Sawyer said. “We can’t rely on one swing anymore, we have to rely on each other to score runs.”

Santa Barbara achieved the greatest success they have ever experienced with last season’s squad. The Gauchos finished 30-21 overall and 14-10 in the Big West. The club’s overall victory totals and the fifth-place finish in the conference were both school records. UCSB will have to rely on its strengths – a deeper pitching rotation and a stable defensive front – to remain competitive in the Big West.

“Our number-one concern this year is the offense,” Sawyer said. “Our pitching is much deeper, and though we had a couple errors in the last game, our defense [will be important]. The defense will come around. Offensively, we’re a completely different team.”

The Gauchos have lost four big components of last year’s success: catcher Kendra Wood and her 38 RBIs, shortstop Mandy Edwards and her .333 batting average, first baseman Jesse Ziese and her 34 RBIs, and slugger Tonya Dias and her .350 average.

However, UCSB plans to combat its losses with a plethora of new additions to the squad.

“We’re going to do the same thing we did last year,” starting sophomore pitcher Loren Thornburg said. “It’s just another season. … We have a lot of good players. People are just going to step and fill the roles.”

Among the athletes that are coming in and filling roles on the team is junior transfer shortstop and third baseman Julia Tamai from Wright State. She will add depth to the experienced infield of Sawyer and senior co-captain third baseman Teresa Tolson. Shasta College transfer Stacy Bolton will help behind the plate. Freshman second baseman Nikki Everett, outfielder Leslie Simien, pitcher Ashley Carroll and pitcher/first baseman Katie Junge will all help replenish the team.

“[Sawyer and Tolson] help keep our composure,” Tamai said. “They show great leadership, especially Teresa because she’s a senior, and she knows how to get things together even when things [look bad]. They work hard also.”

Santa Barbara’s next game will be against Cal Berkeley this Friday at 2 p.m.