Softball is seeking to qualify for an NCAA tournament bid as they work through the fall slate.
Last year the Colonials took home both the A-10 regular season and A-10 Championship crown and earned the program’s first berth into the NCAA tournament under the leadership of former head coach Shane Winkler. The team said they’re using the fall slate this season to hone their craft for a chance to repeat their feat.
Graduate student utility player Alessandra Ponce said the team doesn’t feel like they have to prove anything anymore after last season’s performance.
“We already won,” Ponce said. “We know we’re capable of that. So just building on the culture, we’ve established that championship mindset and just continuing to progress forward and have new goals of going further in the NCAA tournament, building upon records and stats and everything that we already have.”
Graduate student outfielder Olivia Vinyard said the team is using the fall slate to get back in the groove and taking the time for “fine tuning the little things.”
“It’s also a lot about making sure everyone feels comfortable and confident going into our spring season,” Vineyard said. “These games are a way for us to get to know one another, feel comfortable playing with one another. And also it’s just a reminder of how much fun we had last season and it just gets us even more excited for this upcoming season.”
The squad added two new players this year in freshman utility player Gabby Polsky and freshman infielder Taylor Puig. Ponce said the team is in a “special position” this season because the arrival of the new coaching staff has allowed the team to have a fresh start and build their cohesion together all at once.
Junior utility player Maggie Greco said the team has had to be adaptable over the years and that the arrival of a new coaching staff “hasn’t been a problem whatsoever.”
“Our new coaching staff is absolutely amazing,” Greco said. “The thing that I love the most is they have so much attention to detail. They help every single one of us every single day. They make a point to say ‘Hey, how’s your day? How’s class going? How’s your back feeling? Is your body okay?’ They care about us so much more as people and not just players.”
Now that everyone has filed in back on campus, head coach Chrissy Schoonmaker, who was named to the position over the summer, has had the chance to meet everyone on the team and begin laying her plan into motion. She said the team has been “super receptive” and the players have “bought in” to her program.
“They’re a team that’s eager to be coached,” head coach Chrissy Schoonmaker said. “They’re a team that’s eager to be great. So they take feedback, and they take coaching really well, which as a new head coach, you don’t ever know how that’s going to go. They’ve been outstanding.”
Schoonmaker said the team is working on all aspects of the game right now in training and practice. She said the team is specifically focusing on their angle to the ball when fielding, making sure they turn their hips and get a “good jump off the bat” to minimize mistakes.
On the offensive side, she said they’ve been working on their body position when they’re up to hit. She also said she’s been experimenting with moving around the infielders and outfielders so she can see the players get opportunities at different positions and evaluate the team’s capabilities as a whole.
“We have a team that’s very athletic,” Schoonmaker said. “We have multiple people that can play multiple positions, both in the infield and outfield. We’ve got some pitchers that can hit. We’ve got pitchers that can play deep on the defensive side of the ball when they’re not on the mound.”
Schoonmaker finalized her coaching staff with the addition of assistant coach Brian Burgamy Sept. 10. He joined assistant coach Teresa Fister and volunteer assistant coach Avon Meacham. Schoonmaker said she “slept a lot better” after completing her staff because she has “a lot of trust” in them.
Schoonmaker said the team is not out to rewrite history, instead they are looking to the future which she has dubbed “Mission 64.”
“We want to be one of the 64 teams on Selection Sunday that’s called after the conference tournament, whether that means we won the tournament, which was certainly the goal, or it means we’ve gotten an at-large bid,” she said. “Our team is focused on making the NCAA tournament and then moving from there.”
The Colonials will continue to hone their edges as they host crosstown rival Howard Saturday. First pitch is slated for noon.