Softball: Prussia back with the Lakers after impressive collegiate career, eyeing program turnaround
Former Detroit Lakes softball player Sydney Prussia the new head coach of the Laker softball team.
DETROIT LAKES – From the time Sydney Prussia first put on a Laker softball jersey, she knew her path in the game would lead to coaching. She didn't know it would lead her back to the Lakers just months after finishing college.
Prussia graduated from Detroit Lakes high school in 2017. She spent the last four years playing first base at the University of Jamestown. She capped off a successful college career by hitting .386 with 14 extra-base hits in 44 games her senior season last fall. After graduating in December, she came back to where it all started.
"I've always wanted to coach softball," Prussia said. "I started coaching little kids when I was a freshman in high school. I coached throughout college and gave individual lessons and things like that. I didn't think this opportunity would be in the cards for me right away. I'm extremely grateful to be here. I have so much love for this community."
In 2019, the Lakers won their first section championship. Since then, they've won just two games, including a missing season because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Prussia is eyeing a turnaround with a group of fresh faces.
"I really want to get the program back to what it was when I was playing," Prussia said. "I want to get people to love this game. I want to make an impact on the girls and get them to love softball as much as I do."
One of the biggest challenges for the Lakers so far is they're stuck inside. Since practices started on Mar. 14, Detroit Lakes has not seen a forecast that can consistently support outdoor sports.
"Our first games were canceled because of the weather," Prussia said. "They were big games against Thief River Falls and Bemidji. They've always been the best teams we play. We had a lot of anticipation to get the ball rolling, so it was kind of a bummer to push that back."
"It's just a little frustrating because we're on our fifth week of indoor practice," Prussia said. "It's been a struggle. We have some lower numbers this year. We're bringing up a few of our eighth graders. They've been a good support for our JV girls. Overall, we're prepared for whenever we can get outside and get the season going."
The eighth-graders playing at the high school level this spring increase an already big group of underclassmen players. It demands more leadership from veteran players.
"I let them know, before the eighth graders even showed up, that they need to set an example," Prussia said of veteran leadership. "We need to be welcoming to them because, without them, we wouldn't have enough girls for varsity and JV teams. We rely on these girls, and I think they've stepped up and made them feel really comfortable."
Last year, Detroit Lakes scored 3.3 runs per game, which was the lowest in Section 8-3A. Prussia's approach to this season is to wake up the bats.
"Our biggest goal should be to score first every game," Prussia said. "When you strike first, you can really build off of that momentum. The girls get some confidence and don't have to worry about playing from behind. I've always been a supporter of hitting and offense. The biggest thing we're working on is hitting and fundamentals. We've had a lot of girls come in on their own and practice because they want to better themselves."
One of the biggest keys to the Lakers' success right away is being situationally prepared. The girls have done a lot of work in knowing what to do with the ball, depending on the game's situation.
"We practice the repetition and break down situational plays over and over again because we want to get them ready for stuff that can happen in a game," Prussia said. "It's hard to prepare for the real thing until it happens in a game. I want to get them confident in as many game situations as possible."
The Section 8-3A field shook up in the offseason. Sartell-St. Stephen, the defending champions, moved up to Class 4A. Bemidji also moved up after finishing third in the section tournament last year. The Lakers will compete against Alexandria, Rocori, Willmar, Sauk Rapids-Rice and Little Falls.
Prussia is looking forward to finally getting back on the field this spring. Even though it's her first year as head coach, she's excited to make her mark on the program that taught her so much.
"I saw this job opening and hopped on it," Prussia said. "I'm really thankful that I can give back to the team that helped me get into college and helped develop my skills as well."
DETROIT LAKES SOFTBALL
April 7 vs TRF and Bemidji, 3 p.m. (RESCHEDULED)
April 14 at Hawley (DH), 4 p.m.
April 19 vs. Crosby-Ironton (DH), 4 p.m.
April 22 vs Little Falls and Sauk Rapids 2 p.m.
April 26 at Park Rapids (DH) 4 p.m.
May 2 vs. Perham (DH), 4 p.m.
May 3 vs. Staples-Motley (DH), 4 p.m.
May 10 at Aitkin (DH), 4 p.m.
May 13 vs. Alexandria (DH), 4 p.m.
May 17 at Pequot Lakes (DH), 4 p.m.