Cowgirls still have plenty of work ahead of them

By By Alex Hickey / American Press

Winning the Southland Conference

regular-season softball title will get you a nice trophy, but it does

not come with an automatic

berth into the NCAA tournament.

In order to earn that distinction

McNeese State must win this weekend’s SLC tournament at Northwestern

State in Natchitoches.

The Cowgirls (38-13) enter the tourney as the No. 1 seed and will

face either No. 4 Central Arkansas (36-18) or No. 5 Lamar

(24-33) at 4 p.m. this afternoon.

“It’s one of those things where you

play a whole season to play for one weekend,” said McNeese coach Mike

Smith. “You’re basically

playing 56 games for three or four. But that’s the way the

conference is. We just have to have a good weekend.”

Smith pointed out he is proud of this team’s accomplishments in earning the program’s third conference title no matter how

the weekend turns out.

“Regardless of what happens we’ve had a

great year. We’ve had to play consistent softball for 11 weeks,” Smith

said. “We were

in first place from start to finish. That’s a pretty good feat in

itself. I’m proud of what our team has done — our coaches

and players and support staff.”

Smith knows this is no time to rest on laurels, though.

“Now we’ve passed that stage and we’re on to the next,” he said.

McNeese enters the tournament on a hot streak, having won 12 of its last 16. The Cowgirls are hitting .279, led by Alanna

DiVittorio’s .367 average. DiVittorio also leads the team with nine home runs and a .515 on-base percentage.

McNeese split a pair of games at UCA and swept Lamar this year. Smith said the choice between Meagan Bond (18-5) and Jamie

Allred (18-5) to get the first start of the tournament will come down to the matchup.

“We’re going to go over who did what against each team,” Smith said. “They’re both going to be ready. We only have one game

(today) so we don’t have to worry.”

Though it is a double-elimination tournament, winning the first game is usually paramount for a team that wants to win the

title.

“The first game is very important to win, because you have to win four or five games coming out of the loser’s bracket (instead

of three),” Smith said. “That’s going to be huge regardless of whether it is Central or Lamar.”