Softball, Sports

Softball team prepared to reach lofty expectations with new obstacles, new coach

After winning the America East title for the third time in four years in the 2012 season, the Boston University softball team, under the leadership of new head coach Kathryn Gleason, looks to replicate last season’s success.

BU is predicted to finish atop the America East with the University at Albany, but will face a new set of challenges as its move to a new league in the 2014 season prevents the team from playing in the conference championship.

Last season the team’s place as America East champions guaranteed it a spot in the NCAA tournament, where it went 1–2 in the Regional round. This year, the team will have to fight harder and earn an at-large bid in order to make the tournament, but Gleason is determined to bring the team back there this season.

“We’re going to do everything we can, and we’ve set up the schedule to get us where we need to be … and we just have to go do it on the field,” Gleason said.

Despite frustration about not being allowed to participate in the America East tournament, Gleason believes the players will be able to use this setback to push themselves further in her first season as head coach.

“I talk about it a lot with the team. They’ve been through changes, they’ve got a new coach,” Gleason said. “We’ve lost some players to injury, we’ve changed the lineup a little bit. They’re getting used to me as a new coach and me implementing my culture.”

Although the coaching staff has changed this season, many of the staple players for the team’s success last year return to the team this season, including three of the four infielders, all three pitchers and junior catcher Amy Ekart. These players include two of last season’s strongest offensive producers, junior infielders Megan Volpano and Brittany Clendenny, as well as junior outfielder Jayme Mask, last year’s team leader in batting average and stolen bases.

Also returning to the team is junior pitcher Holli Floetker, whose standout season last year played a significant role in the team’s 41–16 final record. She picked up 19 wins and finished the season with a conference-leading 1.54 ERA.

“Sometimes when I ask them to communicate at practice they’re communicating in their own way because they already know each other,” Gleason said of the team chemistry. “It’s great just to look out and they can just turn to each other and know what they’re going to do and know what play they’re going to call.”

Added to the team’s veteran lineup are three freshman players, pitcher and first baseman Lauren Hynes, outfielder Haley King and walk-on outfielder Lauren Underhill.

Gleason emphasized that the team expects its freshmen to contribute, especially with the team’s smaller roster this year. The veterans on the team, who have experienced success in previous seasons, will lead the team by example.

During the fall off-season, Gleason and assistant coach Susie Rzegocki worked with the players one-on-one on fundamentals before the Terriers came back to practice in January. Despite some inclement weather, the team has been undeterred in its practice.

“I don’t think we missed a beat the minute we started practicing in January,” Gleason said.

Despite injuries and graduating seniors, Gleason believes the lineup will remain generally consistent with last season, especially once injuries incurred during the off-season begin to heal. These familiar faces may take comfort in last season’s successes.

“They see it as a driving force,” Gleason said. “As we’ve been here before, we know what we need to do, and now we’re going to take that next step. They’ve had success, and once you’ve had success you don’t want to move backwards.”

The first step in repeating last season’s success is this weekend’s Citrus Classic, starting Friday in Orlando, Fla. The Terriers will face the University of Wisconsin and Georgia Southern University. They will play Wisconsin three times and Georgia Southern twice over the course of the weekend.

“If you don’t have those teams right away that drive you and challenge you, then you get a soft sense of where you are,” Gleason said.

With this challenge, BU hopes to start off the season well and get an early push toward building its RPI ranking and improving its chances of making it to the NCAA tournament. This coming season looks to be one full of both the familiar and the new.

“They’re ready to go,” Gleason said. “Ready to put on the uniform and represent BU.”

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