The Braves were fifth in the KCAC, but had a good finish. The expectations for the second year are much higher.
“I came into last year with average expectations,” Desha said. “I wanted to be able to compete and have a hard-working group that understood the game and what I wanted. We achieved that through that first year. By the end of the season, we were playing very well and had good cohesion.
“Our season carries into the spring. It gives you a preview of what you could expect. We were really excited with the progression we have made.”
Others see the optimism in the Braves camp. Ottawa was selected fourth in the preseason KCAC coaches poll.
“You still have to play the game,” Desha said. “There has been a lot of turnover in our conference.
“It has the potential to open the door for one or two teams to have an upset or two. I am excited from that perspective.”
The returning players are hungry to show they are better and take Ottawa far into the postseason.
Desha said returners such as Max Brewer, Jacob Martin, Kyler Grimes and Rafael Ramirez will need to take over the leadership of the team.
“Those are the guys I expect a lot out of,” Desha said. “We have a good influx of players. It will add depth to our program and more flair, something we did not have last year. It will take a little bit of time, hopefully not until the middle of the season. No one has dug themselves a hole in the first few days.”
The second-year coach said the players came into camp all even.
“It is a clean slate,” he said. “The guys know the expectations are high. The guys from last year have gotten better. The guys that are here will be able to step on [to the field] and our level will not change very much. That is important, we can make a sub or two and feel confident of who is on the field.”
Ottawa opens the season 7:30 p.m. next Tuesday at MidAmerica Nazarene, which advanced to the national tournament last year.
Desha said the schedule will be taxing with the likes of MidAmerica and Baker, two top-10 programs.