Cougars name softball coach
     2016-08-12      By Media Report    editor@geringcitizen.com
Western Nebraska Community College softball has a familiar face that will be taking the reins of the softball program in former Cougar player and assistant Katie Groves.

Groves replaces Maria Winn-Ratliff, who coached the Cougars for 12 seasons. Winn-Ratliff accepted the head coaching position at Tyler Junior College last week. She is excited to be guiding a team that she won a regional title with back in 2010.

“I’m really excited to be taking over the Cougar Softball program,” Groves said. “It’s a bitter-sweet feeling right now seeing Coach Winn go. I think you can ask any of her former players or staff that it’s going to be weird without her. She grew this program from the ground up and made it the special program that it is today. I am beyond thankful that I had the opportunity to play for her, coach by her side, and now carry on the traditions of the program she built.”

WNCC Athletic Director Ryan Burgner is excited to have Groves as the head coach and sees the winning tradition continue. “We are excited and proud to have Coach Katie back in our softball program,” Burgner said. “She was a huge part in the winning tradition that has been built. We are lucky to not only have someone that played but coached at WNCC to continue the tradition she helped build.”

Groves was an NJCAA all-American softball player when she played for the Cougars and then went on to play for Central Missouri. Groves said this is a dream job of a program that is respected by many in the United States.

“I can’t say enough about the Cougar softball program,” she said. “I think anyone that has played for the program, hosted or taught a Cougar softball player, or attended a game can attest to the specialness of it. I’m excited to get going and looking forward to it.”

Groves graduated from Bingham High School in Utah and enjoys softball with a passion. At Central Missouri, she earned All-MIAA First Team honors and was a MIAA conference and NFCA Division II All-American Scholar athlete.

At WNCC, Groves was a two time All-American. She finished her career with 32 home runs (17 in 2009), had a .517 batting average, and .895 slugging percentage.

Groves is excited to see what the team can do this year as she helped recruit a number of the incoming freshmen.

“I’m so happy with the team we have this year,” she said. “The returning players will be key in the leadership of the program and the incoming players have the opportunity to fill roles early. They are hungry kids that want to do great things and I love that about them.”

This is Groves’ first head coaching position, but she realizes what it takes to run a program learning from one of softball’s respected coaches in Winn-Ratliff. “There are some nerves. Coaches that are going on their 20th year coaching have some nerves, but I am truly fortunate to learn and have learned a lot from one of the best coaches in the country,” she said. “Tyler is lucky to have her; she will be missed. I’m ready; I’m nervous, but it’s a good nervous. We will put our shoes on the same way, work as hard as ever, and compete day in and day out.”

The Cougars return seven players back from a year ago and will welcome 13 newcomers. The Cougars open the fall season Sept. 2-4 at the TC Thunder Tourney in Toole, Utah, before hosting the Cougar Classic Sept. 10-11.

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