Cass County, Neb.–The Conestoga and Louisville softball teams formed a co-op this season, becoming the Cass Wildcats. The co-op came at a perfect time as both teams were going to have smaller rosters. The school boards and activities directors agreed to have the two teams to co-op.
Assistant coach ReAnn Schreiner said, “The co-op is going great! All the ladies are getting along really well. The girls have started making friendships that they wouldn’t have.” She said that personally she loves the co-op.
As part of the co-op agreement, there are two head coaches and two assistant coaches. This is coach Sarah DeWispelare’s first time being a co-head coach. She was Conestoga’s head coach last season. “It is (different) but it isn’t. I am still just as important as last year, but the stress is split between two people instead of just bearing it on my own or making an assistant coach handle more than they should.”
“It helps that Coach (Molly) Stieren and I mesh really well. On most occasions we will be in the middle of a game and something will pop into one of our heads, and we will walk towards the other one and we already know what we are both thinking; we truly have been on the same wavelength for most things which has been a nice experience.” DeWispelare said.
This is Coach Stieren’s second time acting as a co-head coach. “Being a coach is so enjoyable, but it has numerous challenges. The best part of being a co-head coach is the ability to work together to lessen the burden of the challenges and spend more time on the enjoyable parts!” Stieren said. She really likes that she gets to share the responsibilities of being a head coach, and adds that she and Coach DeWispelare have a good understanding of each other’s strengths and areas to improve.
“We’ve also got a staff of coaches who are all willing to put in the time and do whatever they can to make this a positive experience for the girls. I’ve been coaching for over ten years, and I’ve learned so much in one season from our coaching staff. It’s very humbling.” said Stieren.
“Of course there will be differences because all the girls and coaches are new to each other. This group is not only trying to build team chemistry, but also put the foundation in for a new program and culture.” she added.
Adjusting to the co-op has been smooth according to co-head Coach DeWispelare. “I am truly enjoying the co-op and I believe the girls are too. At first I was nervous just for the logistic side of things: travel, bussing, how one team may keep stats vs the other, etc., but after going through it, we really haven’t had any issues.” DeWispelare said. She adds that it has been fun watching the girls get excited about going to practice to hang out with and work alongside their new friends.
Stieren says it’s been a great experience so far. “I’ve really enjoyed working with all the girls, other coaches, and the parents. It’s great to see two districts who are used to competing against each other come together and compete with each other.” Stieren said.
The players seemed to have no trouble getting used to the co-op. Mackaylee Madsen, a sophomore at Conestoga, says “I love the co-op and I love the Louisville girls and the friendships I have made. We get along really well”. Conestoga junior Mati Steckler has enjoyed the co-op also, “I love the co-op. We have improved so much from last year. At first it was a little strange and weird playing with a bunch of strangers, but we all know each other so well now. We all get along really well.” she said. Steckler loves being a part of her team and watching her teammates grow.
“Things have gone so great. We don’t even act like we’re from different schools. We all get along well and we click on the field. We look like one united school.” said Louisville senior, Lauren Votta. “We get along perfectly. We don’t argue. We know how to have fun, but also how to play the game of softball.” Teammate Jennifer Katz agrees. “There’s no drama at all. All of our personalities just kinda click and we are all very similar. All of us get along great, and I’m really glad we decided to co-op.” said Katz.
Heading into postseason play, the Wildcats’ record is 7-15. “The outcome is difficult to predict. Obviously our goal is to win, but we will have to continue to work hard and see what happens.” said Conestoga sophomore, Ali Gansemer. The girls are always optimistic about what’s to come with the rest of their season.
Players from both Conestoga and Louisville love their team, as well as the game of softball. As part of the two-year co-op agreement, the former rivals will join forces again next fall, and perhaps beyond. Wildcats fans will have to wait and see how this season ends, but it’s quite clear that the future looks bright for the Cass Wildcats.