New coach motivated Lady Panthers, senior foursome led charge

Wilmot head coach Jenny Jacobson can’t believe a call during the state tournament. The first-year coach saw something special in the Lady Panthers early in the season, despite a 3-3 start (Earlene Frederick/The Report).

By Jason Arndt

For the four departing Wilmot Union High School seniors, what they saw in first-year softball coach Jenny Jacobson was a person who never stopped believing in the Panthers, even when the chips were down at the start of the season.

The Panthers, who started 3-3, including a loss to Westosha Central, eventually found their rhythm to finish the regular season at 16-4.

From there, the team won three regional and sectional contests, one of which was against the Falcons to capture the sectional title and stamp a ticket to state.

Senior Sarah Hutchinson, who shouldered the load as the pitcher, attributes Jacobson as someone who offered constant motivation.

“Coach Jacobson always believed in us 100 percent, she was a big reason why we made it so far, she really made us resilient this year,” Hutchinson said. “She always told us to never give up.”

Hutchinson’s battery mate, catcher Taylor Danielson, agreed with her, adding the moment on the state stage was special.

“I am unbelievably proud of her accomplishments,” Danielson said. “It is very special to me that she started coaching me as a freshman and finished coaching me as a senior.”

Kalyssa Koehn, a four-year varsity member, recalled Jacobson reiterating her belief in the team.

“She is always super motivated. She always said we can do it,” Koehn said. “She said she is very proud of us.”

Riley Regnier, a first baseman, said Jacobson “had never once stopped believing” in the squad.

Wilmot seniors Riley Regnier, Sarah Hutchinson, Kalyssa Koehn and Taylor Danielson (Earlene Frederick/The Report).

Pivotal moment
Entering the Poynette Jamboree, the Panthers won five of their last six contests, but the four seniors agreed the win against 2016 state champion Stevens Point made them believers.

“I believe that’s when we started playing solidly as a team and gained some significant wins and began to believe that we could be a contender,” Danielson said.

“We figured at that point if we could hang with them and make it a game, that would be motivation to come back and finish the conference strong,” Koehn said.

The motivation led the Panthers to a 12-2 SLC record.

“Poynette was the turning point in our season. All of us came together,” Regnier said. “We played as a team and we were truly unstoppable.”

Koehn said the team’s motto of Unfinished Business stemmed from some frustration against county rival Westosha Central.

“Unfinished business had everything to do with Central. We knew they had just barely got past each of the last two seasons,” said Koehn.

“We wanted them to watch us at state this year.”

Koehn, however, felt discouraged after the Panthers dropped the first game against the Falcons.

“After the loss to Central earlier in the year it gave us some doubt,” Koehn said. “But Jacobson and (assistant coach) Ryan Dahl kept us motivated.”

With a motivated coaching staff, the Panthers had plenty of home runs, including six against Westosha Central in the sectional final.

The power, according to Koehn, came as no surprise.

“We have a powerful group of girls,” Koehn said. “Riley has always been our No. 1 power hitter. If we get runners on for her or Hayli (Richards) and give them a chance.”

Led by sophomore spark Haley Lamberson, the rest of the order could knock her in.

“Everyone had their moment at one time or another,” she said. “From No. 2 to 9, at any given moment, it could happen.”

Charged battery
Trust and communication are key components to a successful catcher-pitcher combination, ingredients the duo of Danielson and Hutchinson displayed at state.

“I have caught Sarah for about four years in travel ball and I catch all of her pitching lessons,” Danielson said. “Sarah and I have always had a strong bond.”

Hutchinson, who noted Danielson as one of her closest friends, said the two worked out and discussed strategy all season.

“I truly believe we have an extremely special bond that goes beyond the pitcher-catcher, she’s going to be one of my lifelong best friends,” Hutchinson said.

Hutchinson, who admits she underwent struggles this season, eventually found her rise ball.

“My changeup has been a killer pitch for me this year, and my rise ball made a comeback,” she said, attributing an offseason break to rest a sore arm as one of the reasons she lost the rise ball.

Mission accomplished
Unfinished business became finished business, according to some of the seniors.

“I personally believe that our motto was completed. We accomplished so much,” Regnier said.

“Business is finished. We came farther than we ever came before,” Danielson said. “Not just in the post season but as a team together. We grew as a team and that’s what matters.”

While their time as Panthers are up, the four expect to continue their careers in higher education, with Koehn headed to North Dakota State University, Danielson moving on to the University of Indianapolis, Regnier at the Southern Indiana University and Hutchinson taking the pitcher’s circle at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.


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