By Michael Battista
After a tough season last year, the softball team is hoping to rebound with both a mix of new freshmen on the team and improvements with returning players.
The 2014 Lions earned a 10 and 24 record, but returning sophomore Colleen Phelan says that isn’t a good representation of what the team actually accomplished.
“Last season was a huge learning experience for all of us,” she said. “The record we had did not truly display what we had as a team, which is a lot of heart for the game and each other.”
She went on to say that this year, the team “knows now what we need to do to get the job done and everyone working hard.”
The team has gained six new freshman players for 2015, including Sam Platt, who has the total support of junior Jamie Purcell.
“(Platt) is our pitcher, and she is going to make an impact right away,” Purcell said. “She has been working hard and will do a great job for us.”
Phelan also looked at the pool of freshmen with confidence and hope.
“Our freshman class as a whole this year is bringing in a lot of talent in a lot of places,” Phelan said. “Overall, they are already contributing to the team, and I look forward to seeing it all come together.”
The team is going to need to work together, both returning and new players alike, if they hope to fulfill the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) preseason poll. The Lions were voted as one of the teams poised to get into the postseason this year, along with Rowan University (the league favorite), William Paterson University, Kean University and Montclair State.
It should also be said that the team has some impressive returning players as well. Both Phelan and Purcell earned NJAC honors last year.
Other key returning players include junior pitcher Ashtin Helmer, who recorded 100 strikeouts in 97 innings and lead the team in wins last year, and junior infielder Deanna Utter, who lead the team in doubles and ended the season with an even .300 batting average.
With a team like this, Phelan hopes this season is successful both on the field and with each other.
“My hopes for the season are for all of us to really come together as a team,” she said. “If this happens, we will be unbeatable.”
She did say, however, that the postseason isn’t something she’s looking at right now.
“Our strategy is to take it one game at a time,” Phelan said. “Each pitch is valuable, and if we treat every game like this, we will be successful.”
Purcell, on the other hand, has big hopes right away for the team.
“Our hopes are to win an NJAC championship and advance to regionals,” she said. “We believe that we can have a winning season, and we are going to keep working hard till we achieve that.”
The first game of the season is scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 28, at noon against Ithaca College at Dr. June Walker Field.
“No matter when our first game is, we will be ready,” Phelan said. “Our coaching staff has been doing a great job preparing us physically and mentally, and when we step on the field for the first time, expectations will be high.”