Missouri Softball entering 2019 season with possible sanctions

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COLUMBIA - The Missouri Softball team started their 2019 campaign last weekend, where and how it will end is anyone's guess.

"We have no control over what they decide. What we can control is our effort that we play with every single day," first-year Head Coach Larissa Anderson said. "We're going to play every single game like it is a regional."

No team can be certain how successful they will be in a given season but at least most of them can be certain that if they finish near the top, they will play in the postseason. 

The Tigers are not certain of that. 

The NCAA delivered their penalties to the university on Jan. 31 in an academic fraud case that started in November 2016. The investigation revolves around a whistle-blowing tutor that claims to have done coursework for several student athletes while working for MU.

"At the time, I didn't know," Anderson said of her interview process with MU. "I don't think it would have made any change in my decision."

University officials filed paperwork Thursday to begin appealing the sanctions, which include a 2019 postseason ban for the softball team. 

"We're playing for our seniors, we want them to go out on a great note," Anderson said.

There are four seniors on this year's roster, each has seen a lot of adversity. Anderson is their third coach in four years.

"It's pretty hard because everything is so unsure, this could be my last -this is my last year- and knowing that I could just be done out of nowhere," senior Regan Nash said.

Nash has been producing for Missouri since her freshman season in 2016, and she led the Tigers in hits and stolen bases in 2018. She has been to the regional round of the NCAA tournament every year. Mizzou, as a team, has been every year since 2008, when they were still in the Big 12.

"I have 28 girls looking up to me and all the coaching staff depending on me to keep this morale up on this team and it's hard," Nash said.

Nash says being a leader is a role that she looks forward to, though.

"I definitely look toward this kind of challenge. My four years have had a lot of adversity and it's just something I've had to push through every year," Nash said. "This is definitely going to be the hardest test and it's going to be fun."

Missouri Athletic Director Jim Sterk said he believes the appeals process will take a minimum of six months, eclipsing the team's season, in which case the postseason ban may actually fall next season. 

Nash isn't reading too much into that, though.

"Even if the appeal process keeps going and we don't know about the postseason, we just have to keep pushing and act like nothing's happening, keep going on as normal," Nash said.