Lake Shore sets clear goals going into season

By: Jason Carmel Davis | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published April 1, 2016

 St. Clair Shores Lake Shore softball coach Will Puvalowski expects his seniors to lead the team this season. Pictured is Shorians senior outfield Natalie VanDerHaegen during a March 29 practice.

St. Clair Shores Lake Shore softball coach Will Puvalowski expects his seniors to lead the team this season. Pictured is Shorians senior outfield Natalie VanDerHaegen during a March 29 practice.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

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ST. CLAIR SHORES — St. Clair Shores Lake Shore senior outfielder Natalie VanDerHaegen said the players and coach Will Puvalowski set two clear goals for the softball program coming into the season.

“We want to win our division and we want to win a district title,” said VanDerHaegen, one of three senior leaders on the team, along with pitcher/infielder Anika Champine and catcher Jordan Miller. Each of those three is in her fourth year of varsity softball.

Lake Shore, which opens the season at 4 p.m. April 12 at Utica Ford II, won the Macomb Area Conference White Division last season for the program’s first league title since 2009.  In 2014, the Shorians won a district title — the team’s first since 2010. Lake Shore’s season ended last year in a 6-3 loss to St. Clair Shores Lakeview in the district round of the playoffs. Lakeview went on to win a district title.

Puvalowski, who is in his third year leading the team, is confident that his team has a shot to bring home at least two championships this season. That’s with what Puvalowski and VanDerHaegen call a young team.

“I’m excited about what I’ve seen so far,” Puvalowski said. “We’ve got really strong leadership. Our seniors are taking right over — keeping all the girls focused and getting the younger girls acclimated to the varsity game.”

Puvalowski said he and his staff are focusing on the little things this season. He said situational hitting, defense and base running will all play a role in his team’s success.

The Lake Shore coach is hopeful that his team can take another step in the right direction.

“We want to have more success in the playoffs,” Puvalowski said. “If they can get those things down, we’ll be good. Like any other sport, you need luck and you need to be playing well at the right time. We’ll see what happens. I like our chances.”

The Shorians lost four players to graduation, including pitcher/infielder Mackenzie Nemitz and pitcher/outfielder Andrea Rico. Nemitz and Rico served as team captains last season, and Nemitz now plays at the University of Michigan.

VanDerHaegen said not having those two around this year has been different, but that she and the other seniors are filling the leadership roles admirably.

“(Nemitz and Rico) were everything to the team last year,” VanDerHaegen said. “It’s been a little hard taking over the leadership roles, but we’re getting the hang of it.”

Puvalowski and VanDerHaegen are excited to get the season underway. The Shorians coach expects the MAC White to be strong. Utica High has won the league the last two years and won a district title last season. Puvalowski said he expects Clinton Township Chippewa Valley, Sterling Heights Stevenson, Lakeview and Macomb L’Anse Creuse North to field solid teams too.

“I’m ready to get going,” said VanDerHaegen, noting that as of March 29 the team had only been able to practice outside twice. “I just wanna be outside. I’m really excited. I can’t wait to play. We’re going to work really hard to reach the goals we set.”

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