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Former Cardinals’ star Brittney Bruzek jumpstarts first season as Alexandria softball coach

Brittney Bruzek, a 2006 graduate of Jefferson High School, is stepping into her first season as head coach of the Alexandria softball team and excited about the opportunity in front of her after the first week of practice.

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First year head coach Brittney Bruzek leading a practice on Match 18, 2022.
Sam Stuve / Alexandria Echo Press

There’s a new leader in the Alexandria softball program. And at the helm is a name that longtime Alexandria residents may easily recognize.

Brittney Bruzek, a Jefferson High School alumni from the Class of 2006, is ready to lead the Cardinals in her first season as head coach as the Cardinals opened their season with the first week of practice last week. Alexandria has a scrimmage at Cretin-Derham Hall High School on April 2 before the season opener at Albany on April 11.

“It feels pretty good to be back, especially being at your alma mater and being in a place that you grew up in,” Bruzek said.

Bruzek was an accomplished player for the Cardinals, earning All-Central Lakes Conference honors four times and was a two-time all-section player.

Now she and her staff are in the process of establishing a culture.

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Members of the Alexandria softball program huddle during a practice on March 16, 2022.
Sam Stuve / Alexandria Echo Press

“We're finding what rhythms work with certain athletes and where they're going to be best at their potential,” Bruzek said. “The biggest thing is building a culture that our relationship can continue to build on.”

Bruzek was announced as the head coach back in November and has now had her first few practices with the team under her belt.

In her collegiate days, Bruzek played for a year at St. Thomas before transferring to Augsburg. Her best season came in 2010 when she had a .489 batting average, 10 home runs and 62 RBIs, all of which led the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.

Bruzek is taking over for former head coach Randy Albers who resigned after 10 seasons.

“Coach Albers did a great job with this program,” Bruzek said. “I had coach (Bob) Cunniff, who had been my coach sophomore through my senior year and then Albers took over and great athletes came through this program. What I would like to do is continue to harvest and continue bringing in good athletes and developing them in more in the skill sets of competition.”

Bruzek said a primary goal is to develop the youth levels of the program so athletes are ready to step in with confidence at the varsity program from a young age. At the center of her message so far has been the concept of trust and players getting to know her.

“I want them to learn me, trust me, and to learn my coaching style,” Bruzek said. “But it’s also for me to learn them and establish a relationship that we can both push each other. Then they push us as a coaching staff and also as a coaching staff we push our athletes.”

Junior Aubrie Porter says that life lessons have been at the core of Bruzek’s teachings.

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Alexandria's Aubrie Porter talks with head coach Brittney Bruzek in a practice on March 16, 2022.
Sam Stuve / Alexandria Echo Press

“She's teaching us lessons, life lessons, like we’re learning about good choices and communication,” Porter said.

These life lessons and the trust that goes along with them were partially established before the first week of practice, thanks to a couple of previous interactions.

“When it all started, I actually was able to reach out and talk with seniors,” Bruzek said. “I was able to meet with seniors one time in January and one time in February to establish and build a relationship with that group. I think that has really helped when we come into practices where there's already a trust bond built, where others are going to follow. Beyond that, just the player piece, we had one player meeting.”

Bruzek said she’s talked a lot about how the team needs to be “open.”

“They gotta be open and be okay to be uncomfortable and learn new things,” Bruzek said.

This Alexandria program has hopes of making it back to the section championship.

“We have some tough teams on our schedule that we remember from last year,” Senior Jordan O’Kane said. “Honestly, we just want to go in there, do the best we can and try to compete well with them and try to make the state tournament hopefully.”

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Alexandria's Jordan O'Kane makes a throw at a practice on March 16, 2022.
Sam Stuve / Alexandria Echo Press

In last season's Section 8AAA Championship, Alexandria fell 12-0 in five innings to Sartell-St. Stephen. The Sabres were 19-3 last spring, and the Cardinals finished 16-8.

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The Cardinals are focusing on improving from every game, win or lose.

“I want the kids to have a great experience,” Bruzek said “I believe that we can be very competitive, go for a CLC title and maybe a state-run. But at the end of the day, finding that we're winning the little victories, dropping our errors, gaining more hits, scoring more runs, getting those secondary outs, getting, you know, backdoor plays, those are kind of my big goals that I would like to see the program attain.”

The first-year head coach likes what she has seen so far from her upperclassmen, who will be tasked with helping lead the way this spring.

“We have a lot of upperclassmen leadership,” Bruzek said. “There's big communication pieces on that.”

Bruzek says that she has seen the team put in some good work in the batting cage. This is an Alexandria team that averaged 9.2 runs per game last season, but gave up 7.0.

“I believe we have strong hitting. That's something that I got to see,” Bruzek said. “We have speed, whether they want to say it or not. We have speed as a program. So those are some things that I see us doing pretty well.”

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Alexandria's MaCee Linow hits a ball at practice on March 16, 2022.
Sam Stuve / Alexandria Echo Press

Bruzek said she’d seen some good things defensively and from the pitchers, but there are still some things to touch up on.

“I think that's something that we can always get better at and something that we're going to drive home,” Bruzek said. “Dialing into our pitchers, developing a little bit more in certain aspects. Defensively, getting clean, getting crisp, being a lot lighter on our toes, being able to move our feet a little bit quicker with our transitions is all going to come with time.”

The Cardinals will have two road games to start the spring schedule before the home opener against Brainerd on April 19.

“It’s exciting, especially since for me, it's my senior season and getting out on the field for the last time ever since I won't be playing in college; this is going to be a special one,” O’Kane said. “I'm just excited because it's a really strong group. We still have a bunch of returners from our (run to the section championship game) last year and just hoping we could make the same.”

Sam Stuve covers a variety of sports in the Douglas County area. He also is assigned to do some news stories as well.
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