A young team with just two seniors on its roster has played one of the most difficult preseason schedules of any Class 3A team. Combined with a pair of key injuries, that has produced a preseason to forget for the Tooele softball team.
But there is no need to panic. If there is one thing that Tooele has learned in celebrating 100 years of competition, it is that the preseason is nothing more than preparation.
Even though Tooele coach Melanie Nelson acknowledges that this is a rebuilding season, she knows that if Tooele can get one of the playoff spots from Region 11, the Buffaloes will be a tough out.
"We have had a lot of adversity," Nelson said. "But we're starting to figure it out. It might not show in our record, but we've come a long ways."
After an 0-11 preseason, Tooele has bounced back to go 3-3 in region play and is in a good position to make the state tournament.
The Buffaloes suffered a setback when they lost pitcher Lauren Frailey to a knee injury before the season began. Then starting catcher Kit Olney needed surgery to repair a broken finger.
"Lauren almost tore her PCL in a practice, but she was released to play a couple weeks ago and now she's getting her feet back under her and her movement back," Nelson said. "We've had her back for a couple of weeks."
Nelson moved second baseman Rylee Whitehouse, last year's starting catcher, back behind the plate. And with the production from a pair of sophomores, Alyssa Arslanian and Alysia Roybal, who share the team lead in doubles, combined with the pop in Whitnie Touhuni's bat (three home runs), Tooele is back in the playoff hunt.
Now the hope is that those preseason games against the top teams in 5A, including two apiece against Alta and Riverton along with games against Bingham, Lehi and Murray (4A), will help the Buffaloes be better prepared to finish strong in 3A.
"I just stuck with the same schedule that we've had in the past," Nelson said. "To be the best, you have to play the best, and I think it will help us when we play Stansbury, Bear River and Grantsville again."