Last season’s softball team was the program’s most successful in GW history.
The Colonials earned a program-record 28 wins, including 11 conference victories, but weren’t able to reach the Atlantic 10 tournament.
This year, players said they’re using the improved but ultimately disappointing results of 2017 as a building block to succeed in the conference tournament this May.
“Not making the tournament really fueled our fire to work really hard in the offseason and preseason,” sophomore Jenna Cone said. “That has really helped motivate us so we can make sure that we do what we need to do to make this year’s tournament.”
Head coach James DeFeo said a postseason appearance is a reasonable expectation for the new roster, which includes six newcomers.
“For this team our goal is to not only make the tournament but do well in the tournament,” he said. “We have a lot of different ways we can score and overall we’ve improved offensively and defensively.”
GW played its home opener in Orlando last Friday, grabbing a 12-2 win over Florida A&M – the team’s largest margin of victory over its past 19 outings. The Colonials finished their opening weekend 3-2 after dropping both matchups by at least eight runs Saturday.
“We played very well on Friday, I think we executed well on offense and defense and pitched very well. Saturday was the complete opposite,” DeFeo said. “But came back and played well on Sunday and ended on a high note.”
Following significant offseason departures, including the graduation of shortstop Megan Linn and third baseman Paige Kovalsky, GW’s starting nine included four different first-year players and a core of sophomores in the middle of the lineup.
Third baseman Jenna Cone, catcher Priscilla Martinez and utility player Jessica Linquist, who are all in their second year, will pace the Colonials lineup from the three, four and five holes. Cone – who set seven single-season program records in her inaugural season – is considered one of the best offensive players in the A-10.
“She is on national team watch lists, and that is great,” DeFeo said. “But she knows that if she doesn’t work hard and produce the results to back all that up then it doesn’t mean much.”
Juniors Marta Fuentas and Criza Bulanadi transferred to GW from Junior College to fill into infield and outfield roles, respectively. Fuentas hit leadoff last weekend and boasts a team-high seven hits so far.
Freshmen outfielder Olivia Ortlieb and utility player Sierra Lange also found their way into starting positions and collected multiple hits in the opening games.
“We have a lot more speed this year and a lot more versatility in the positions,” Cone said. “We are a very different team than we were last year.”
Lange also appeared as a pitcher in two different games – serving as a starter on both occasions. Players said the Colonials staff gained depth over the offseason, but the ace of the team is still senior Sarah Costlow.
After three years as the most-used arm, Costlow has already played her way into Colonials history. She holds the GW record for career wins and sits in second place all-time for earned run average and complete games.
In the 13.0 innings she pitched last week, Costlow allowed only one run.
“Sarah is on a mission this year,” DeFeo said. “She realizes what she has around her and she is driven to make sure that the team succeeds, but she wants to end her career on a high note.”
Costlow and senior second baseman Rochelle Draper said the beginning of their final season in Foggy Bottom was emotional and they hope to conclude their careers with a ring.
They both, along with the rest of the senior class, have never had the same coaching staff for more than one year. However, they said the relationship between the players and coaches has been at its best recently.
“My freshman year and sophomore year the culture was a little different,” Draper said. “The culture is really different and we are creating a culture that expects to win always and we put in the work to win always. It is really exciting.”
The Colonials return to action in Riverside, Calif. Friday for another five-game weekend slate beginning with a noon contest against New Mexico.
After GW’s first two home games Feb. 28, the team travels to South Carolina before embarking on an up to 22-game home stretch.