Southeast grad leads Friends Falcons to NAIA Tournament

WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) -- The Friends University softball team begins its quest for an NAIA National Championship this week against top-seeded Oklahoma City University.

It's a tough draw for the Falcons, but Kylie Fox knows what it takes to turn an underdog into a winner.

"This is my first championship I've ever won. I have no rings, nothing like that, so this is definitely a bittersweet moment, my senior year doing that," she said.

Fox is a senior catcher for the Friends Falcons. The Wichita Southeast grad won't back down from tough competition--like the teams they'll see in Oklahoma City. She's used to it from her playing days with the Buffaloes.

"Stepping up and being a leader to the best of my ability and trying to lead that team and get us as many wins as we could," she said. "My [high school] senior year, we actually broke a record for most wins in a season. So I think that kind of drew me to come to a more competitive atmosphere like Friends."

She's not leading this team alone. Ace pitcher Hali Walters is in the circle for the first year after sustaining two season-ending injuries, and these two are inseparable.

"We just have this really incredible bond. I mean, she knows what I'm thinking and it's kind of vice versa," Walters said. "We work together, we talk about things when we know something has to be adjusted."

Fox understands their bond is crucial to lead a cohesive defensive unit.

"We just work together so much and we attack batters on and on. We just make sure we're that core of a team and make sure that we have the ball every play and we make sure we do it and we do it right," she said.

The most incredible part of this team's story: the Falcons had no certain head coach in August when head coach Tony Segovia stepped down after 14 years. That's when Derby-native Suzanne Unruh took over.

"I mean, I think we were all a little scared when we came into the year without a coach and then we got incredibly blessed with her," Walters said. "She's one of the best things that's ever happened to friends university, I think."

That's no understatement. She turned the squad into KCAC Champions in one season.

"I mean, I inherited a great group anyway, so that was nice," Unruh said. "Just knowing and being in the KCAC all of those years that I was at Tabor, I knew what Friends was capable of and I knew what they had returning and it was just fun to see that and be a part of that, knowing all of those players. I just walked into a good opportunity and I'm lucky to be here."

Friends faces off with No. 3 and top-seeded Oklahoma City University Monday at 1:00 in OKC.