January 11, 2018

CARTERVILLE — It's been almost a year ago now when Taylor Siefert watched her first John A. Logan College softball team take the field during a tournament in Mississippi.

She was a little nervous, after all it was her first head coaching job.

To add to the butterflies in her stomach, she was also following in her mother's footsteps. Her mother had coached the Lady Vols from 1993 to 1997.

Siefert and her team would go a perfect 5-0 in Mississippi. Even before the first pitch, Siefert's nerves were overtaken by instinct.

You see, the softball field is a place where she grew up. She become a star in high school — and was later named to her high school's athletic hall of fame — before going to Southern Illinois University Carbondale where she also had an outstanding career.

She was now taking what she had learned as a player and teaching it to others as a coach.

Her team was made up primarily of players from Southern Illinois. Five of those players were pitchers who had not yet been tested at a collegiate level.

It wasn't long before the nation took notice. After going 5-0 in their first tournament, the Lady Vols kept winning. If winning was fun, the Lady Vols were having a party.

Not yet midway into the season, the Lady Vols were 20-1. They would finish the season 46-12, one game away from going to the national finals.

"It was an amazing season," Siefert said. "I didn't know what to expect when the season began. But I soon found out that we had a team full of competitors."

Her mother, Tina McCleland-Orsburn, was at almost every game.

"She loves being at the games," Siefert said of her mother. "She's one of my biggest supporters."

The Lady Vols lost nine players from last year's team. Siefert has had to rebuild. She did so again with a strong roster of Southern Illinois players.

"Southern Illinois softball is very good and develops very good players," Siefert said. "It's a popular sport here and with the support of John A. Logan College and SIUC, with the camps held at both campuses, high school players get opportunities other areas might not be able to provide."

While last year's team had strong pitching and a number of long-ball hitters, Siefert said this year's team may rely primarily on its speed.

"You'll see some pop in our bats and a lot of speed," Siefert said, "probably more singles and doubles instead of home runs like last season."

This year's roster includes: Madison Ruppel, Lynnville, Indiana; Mikayla Chamnes, Creal Springs; Rebecca Moffett, Herrin; Skylar Miller, Carbondale; Lynnsay Wilson, Mulkeytown; Makayla Smothers, Herrin; Sarah Aldridge, West Frankfort; Alyssa Wright, Smithland, Kentucky; Sydney Levan, Campbell Hill; Taja Dedecker, DeSoto; Lexi Childers, Herrin; Taylor Rogers, Evansville, Indiana; and Ally Vaughn, Cape Girardeau, Missouri.