Softball picked to finish first in NEC preseason poll
Following a disappointing finish last season at the Northeast Conference (NEC) tournament, the Robert Morris University softball team is ready to start fresh this season. The Colonials are a team with a lot of experience, a fresh crop of new faces, and a drive to win.
After losing just two seniors to graduation last year, the Colonials are sure to be a team full of experience and leadership.
“I expect our returners to lead by example,” said head coach Craig Coleman. “Although our freshmen are talented they’ve never been through the grind of a college season before. Our upperclassmen have not only been through the grind, but they’ve learned how to win”
Knowing how to win is a key component to this senior class. They have made it to the NEC tournament in their first three years, and have compiled a 79-67 overall record and an impressive 40-19 NEC record during that time.
The only thing missing is a NEC title.
“I want us to win the NEC championship and get to the NCAA tournament this year,” said senior captain Jessica Calderone. “It’s been my goal since I’ve been a freshman here. We came close last year, but it was pretty much taken from us.”
With five freshmen this season the Colonials will need them to contribute out of the gate in order to be successful.
“I think all of our freshmen are very talented and I think they’re ready to start the season with us and they’re going to do great things,” said senior Alexa Bryson.
Coach Coleman has put together a strong non-conference schedule for the team this year that features a strong Hawaii team. It is his hope that a tough non-conference schedule will make his team better for NEC play.
“We’ve given ourselves a very difficult non-conference schedule, which will be a challenge,” he said. “On the other hand it should make us tougher and more ready for the very difficult conference schedule we’ll have.”
While an important all around effort will be vital this season, Coleman believes his team has one advantage that puts his team above all the others in the NEC.
“It’s going to take strong consistent pitching to win it all,” he said. “We are blessed to have three outstanding pitchers. All 3 of our pitchers are better than some teams best pitcher.”
Bryson is set to lead the staff again this season as she had her first three seasons. Splitting the pitching duties with her are sophomore, Geena Badolato and freshman, Nicole Sleith.
After winning the NEC regular season last year, the Colonials are sure to be one to watch.
“We’ll be playing like we have a target on our back and everybody will be shooting for us,” Coleman said. “We cannot afford to have an off weekend or to look past an opponent. Trying to beat us will be the highlight of their conference season and we have to be ready for that.”
Although the Colonials begin non-conference play this weekend in North Carolina, their conference schedule will not start until March 24 in Long Island, New York.
While Bryson knows the team will need a strong conference record to be successful in the postseason, she also recognizes that as long as the team gets in, they have a huge chance.
“I’ve learned that it is important to play a consistently good season, but it really comes down to 2 or 3 days of games,” she said. “So you really need to stay focused and bring it for 3 days. Even if the rest of your season hasn’t been the greatest you can still win it in the end.”