Coming off one of the best seasons in program history, the women’s softball team enters the season as one of the Goliaths of the Atlantic 10 – a juggernaut that keeps getting younger and better.
The team, picked to finish second in the conference, is expected to continue its offensive prowess despite the graduation of centerfielder Autumn Taylor. GW has eight freshmen on the roster, including sluggers Megan Linn, who batted an impressive .450 as a high school junior, and Jillian Galich, a National All-American.
“As we do better as a program, we get better recruits. The kids coming in are just as talented as anyone on the field,” head coach Stacey Schramm said.
That young talent will take the pressure off the team’s returning run-producers, Schramm said. Leading the team on offense this year will be returning junior shortstop Victoria Valos, who hit .363 with 11 home runs last year. She will be accompanied by sophomore first baseman Carlee Gray, who hit .310 with 28 runs batted in.
The team also boasts one of the best pitching duos in the conference: senior ace Courtney Martin, who boasted a 2.10 earned run average, and sophomore Megan Rico, who racked up 139 strikeouts last season.
Freshman pitcher Paige Kovalsky will also join the staff, allowing extra rest for both Rico and Martin, who logged a lot of innings as the only pitchers on the team last season.
“Last season, since it was only two pitchers, we did a really good job of making sure we trusted our teammates instead of putting all the pressure on ourselves. It was really a combined team effort,” Martin said. “Going into this season, something we need to work on is limiting walks, and just keep confident in our rotation.”
With with a 27-23 overall record and a 13-7 conference record last season, the Colonials earned a No. 4 seed in the A-10 Championship, where they lost to fifth-seeded Saint Louis in the quarterfinals. Despite the early exit, GW still ended the season with the most wins in school history.
At one point last season, the Colonials had a 12-game win streak, finding success by setting high standards for themselves, Valos said.
“Having those expectations keep rising throughout the season allowed us to never settle for where we were as a team,” Valos said. “Even though we were chosen second in the preseason poll, that’s not high enough for us. We want first and then we want regionals, and until we reach those goals we’re not going to stop.”
The team has a tough schedule, playing a handful of power conference teams prior to the start of A-10 play, including No. 12 Kentucky this Saturday at the Beach Invitational at Long Beach State, and No. 17 LSU next Friday at the Tiger Invitational in Louisiana.
“We are playing teams that have been in the NCAA Tournament, so just getting the chance to compete against them and possibly beat them, which is definitely possible, sets us up well for conference play,” Valos added.
The team’s first home game will be on Feb. 25 at 3 p.m. against Delaware State.