Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes ofwebsite accessibilityApril 21st: Loras College's Ashley Winter | KGAN
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April 21st: Loras College's Ashley Winter

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Over her thirteen years leading Loras softball, head coach Ashley Winter has had her fair share of ups and downs

"You learn to be resilient," says Winter. "Continue to wake up the next day and try to figure out a way to be better."

After a disappointing stretch that included a 2-27 season a year ago, the Duhawks needed a fresh start,

"I knew that I did not want to experience what we experienced last year," said senior Ellie Schill. "So us returners decided we were going to throw everything we know about Loras softball out the window, restart from the ground up."

Winter went to the drawing board in the offseason. That's where the phrase "start the fire" was born.

"To give them something to kind of unite them and to play for and start a fire was kind of our way to you know, forget about the past start a new and find positive energy that they could bring every day and ever if everybody just brings a little bit," said Winter.

"It's going to turn into something great."

And it has. Like a phoenix rising from its own ashes, Loras has been on fire.

The DuHawks started the year 16-1 and achieved the program's first-ever Top 25 ranking.

"It really just into our culture and shows that if we just work as a team and have a positive mentality and have fun playing the game, then good things happen," added freshman Ashlyn Hemm.

But to Winter, it's more than wins or losses.

"I think a lot of times they can be really hard on themselves. So I want to be the person that builds them up," she says.

Whether that's on the diamond or off it.

"She's like a mom to us girls and she just cares about us like it's not you guys are softball players. It's like you guys are young girls and you're learning how to figure out life," says Schill.

"It's definitely like, if we get down she's just encouraging us that like we can keep going and we can bounce back and it's never kind of blaming us if we do anything wrong," added Hemm.

Because when things get tough, sometimes all you need is something or someone to help start the fire.

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"I want to make sure that they're prepared and ready for that and that I've given them the life skills whether that's responsibility, teamwork work. ethic, things like that, to help them succeed," said Winter.

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