BOCA RATON, Fla. - Prior to the start of the 2017 softball season, Florida Atlantic University was picked to repeat as Conference USA regular season champions. The team had a strong core returning but had to replace three four-year starters.
The season started off extremely well for Head Coach Joan Joyce's team. FAU held an 11-2 record and had won eight games in a row by a combined score of 60-3. It was in the Owls’ 14th game that the season took an unfortunate turn: All-American pitcher Kylee Hanson suffered an ankle injury against Kentucky that would force her to miss the rest of the year.
“We began the season with really big wins over some good teams. Then, when Kylee got hurt we had to change our plan of attack,” said Joyce.
After a winless weekend at the LSU Invitational, FAU began C-USA play at WKU where the Owls swept the Hilltoppers, giving Coach Joyce her 900th win as head coach. Junior Tatum Buckley earned Conference Pitcher of the Week honors for her performance in the circle.
“Once the shock of losing Kylee wore off, we were able to recover and win a lot of games after that,” said Joyce. “It was struggle for a while, but I think the team handled it very well. I can’t complain about how hard they fought.”
FAU ended the regular season with a 35-20 overall record and was 15-9 in C-USA games, good for the fourth seed at the conference tournament. The Owls also had to fight off a stomach bug that affected the team.
“We got to the (C-USA) tournament, and had seven or eight kids sick. Then, the first game of the day ran so long that we were almost three hours late starting our game, so it was one bad break after another.”
In that game, the Owls fell to WKU 6-5 in nine innings, ending their season with a 35-21 record. Despite the way the season ended, there were some notable accomplishments. In addition to Coach Joyce recording her 900th career victory, Buckley made the NFCA All-Region Team for the second year in a row and Emily Lochten became just the third player in program history to be named an All-American, joining FAU Athletics Hall of Famer Nikki Myers and current teammate Hanson, who made the team last season.
There is also reason to be excited to about the future, as the Owls lost just one everyday starter to graduation and Hanson will return to lead a deep pitching rotation for the 2018 campaign.