LAFAYETTE — Ranked ninth nationally and boasting a pair of preseason Sun Belt Conference Players of the Year in catcher Lexie Elkins and pitcher Christina Hamilton, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette softball team is not lacking star power.

But Cajuns coach Mike Lotief said the true measure of his team will be found beyond those usually found in the headlines.

“The teams that are successful and win championships are truly teams,” Lotief said. “When spotlights shine on individuals, I think it’s important for us to continue to understand that the success of this program has always been if we can put a good team on the field, and if we can get a good group of girls working hard together, then we’re going to have success.”

That can be defined is through leadership, Lotief said.

The Cajuns have what Lotief said is a nice mix of youth and established upperclassmen, the latter of which make his job easier as a coach.

“The dynamics of the team are such that the older kids do a really good job of mentoring the younger kids,” Lotief said. “More times than not, those upperclassmen are the best coaches and the best teachers.

“They’re also their best friends, they’re able to take them through hard times and relate to those kids because they went through exactly the same thing.”

The Cajuns’ leadership might be tested early in the season. With the injury bug biting the team in the preseason, Lotief said as many as five freshmen could be on the field at any given time when they open their season this weekend.

Three of those could be coming at premium positions. The Cajuns will start freshman D.J. Sanders at shortstop, will likely rotate between Aleah Craighton and Kelli Martinez in center field, and pitcher Kylee Jo Trahan will probably get a start in the circle while Hamilton and Jordan Wallace work back to full strength.

The Cajuns will also be playing without Natalie Fernandez, who provided a steadying hand on last year’s 49-10-1 team before graduating. But Lotief has been impressed by what he’s seen from his group so far.

“Leadership is all about how you influence the person next to you,” Lotief said. “Our kids need to make sure the influence and the energy we’re bringing every day is positive.

“I really feel good about this team, because right now I can’t come in front of y’all and give you a specific name, because I see a lot of kids doing some good stuff, being selfless and caring about the people around them in a good, positive way.”