After two straight seasons of finishing at the bottom of the North Texas Junior College Athletic Conference standings, Grayson College head softball coach Theresa Barnett decided it was time to make some upgrades.

After two straight seasons of finishing at the bottom of the North Texas Junior College Athletic Conference standings, Grayson College head softball coach Theresa Barnett decided it was time to make some upgrades.


With a stronger focus on attracting talent, the Lady Vikings revamped their roster in the offseason, and head into the new year with a much-different frame of mind.


"We’ve got a few returners, but our pitchers are going to be very young," Barnett said. "We’re going to have a lot of freshmen in key positions."


The Lady Vikings open the 2014 season today with a non-conference doubleheader at Kilgore College, beginning with the first game at 1 p.m. Their home debut follows on Saturday against Bossier Parish (La.) Community College at 1:15 p.m.


Barnett hopes a higher caliber of recruits will lead to a return to the NJCAA Region V tournament for the first time since 2011.


"We’ve always had a mixture of kids from the Dallas and Houston areas, and some smaller school kids," Barnett said. "We still have kids from smaller schools, but we’re always looking at kids from bigger schools who play at a higher level.


"We like recruiting the Dallas area because it’s far enough away that they’re going off to college, but it’s close enough for them that it’s not too far for their parents to come watch them play."


For example, this year’s roster has a heavy Denton County flavor, with no less than four players from Flower Mound Marcus, three from the city of Denton, and one each from Sanger, Argyle Liberty Christian and The Colony.


The Lady Vikings bring back a pair of relief pitchers from last year in sophomores Kaitlyn Mosley and Lexes Wilson, but the top two starters will be Jordan Gundersen, a freshman from Marcus, and Courtnee Jones, a freshman from Hooks.


Gundersen will start in left field when not pitching, and is joined by her sister Kiersten, a sophomore catcher who was all-conference last season. Freshman Christina Guckes of Frisco Liberty will also catch, Barnett said.


Sophomore Apryl Weber returns at shortstop, but the other three infield positions are still unsettled heading into the new season. Barnett said Diana Rodriquez, a transfer from Texas Southern, will likely take over at third base. Jones will probably start at first base when not pitching, with sophomores Rachel Sutton of Marcus or Kaitlynn Callier of Red Oak taking over when Jones is in the circle.


Outfield is the most open area on the Lady Vikings’ starting lineup. Barnett will be taking a look at several players during the run-up to NTJCAC play.


The Lady Vikings have a busy start to the year with eight games in the first two weeks. Then after a brief lull, they’ll open conference play on Feb. 26 at Ranger College.


The schedule features four straight conference road trips, followed by eight straight home doubleheaders and the final four meetings back on the road.


"That’s just the luck of the draw," Barnett said. "That’s how we set the schedule. We start out on the road, have a whole bunch of games in the middle and end up back on the road. If we can get some wins in the middle, we might be able to pick up some momentum."