The UCSB softball team looks to kick off the season this weekend on its home turf with New Mexico State, Illinois-Chicago and Loyola Marymount heading into town to participate in the UCSB Early Bird Tournament.

After a 2001 campaign plagued by frustration and disappointment, the program has undergone a 180-degree turn to improve a squad that is filled with renewed enthusiasm for this year’s competition.

After losing only one senior to graduation, Santa Barbara will have many familiar faces on the field. Even though the names in the line up have not changed since last year, this Gaucho team is much different from teams fielded in the recent past. This Gaucho program has undergone a facelift in terms of attitude and with this new spirit it believes that it can compete at a higher level than it has in the past.

“You can have a team with all the talent in the world,” senior captain and second baseman Kim Sawyer said. “But all that talent does not mean anything if you don’t have the right attitude. This year we have the right attitude.”

This sense of optimism stems from the few new faces on Santa Barbara’s team. Instead of making the plays on the field, these new faces are the ones calling the shots. At the helm for the Gauchos is first year Head Coach Kristy Schroeder, who brings a wealth of knowledge from prior playing experience at UCLA, and coaching experiences at the University of Pacific and Truman State.

“We are learning new things every day,” junior outfielder Natalie Adame said. “The coaches give us a lot of instruction and are always very positive with what we are doing out there. They have a lot of confidence in us, which makes us have a lot of confidence in ourselves.”

Santa Barbara heads into its first action this morning at 11 against New Mexico State. In the second game of the double header they face off against LMU at 3 p.m. The troops will hit the field at 9 a.m. versus Illinois-Chicago and 3 p.m. against NMS on Saturday, before finishing the tourney on Sunday with an 11 a.m. matchup against LMU.

“Our goal this weekend is to build as a team,” junior pitcher Loren Thornburg said. “We are looking to learn how we [as a team] work together and focus on doing all the little things that we know how to do.”