BY CHADEIRA MOORE —
After a successful season last year, the William Paterson University softball team opens 2018 with a young team.
In 2017, the Pioneers finished the season 28-13 overall and 15-13 in the New Jersey Atlantic Conference. The team advanced to third round of the NJAC Tournament and got an At-large Bid to the NCAA Regional Tournament.
The team also graduated six seniors in 2017 and is now dominated by newcomers.
“Our primary goal is to bring this very young squad together as quickly as possible, and see what kind of ‘character’ they have,” said Hallie Cohen, head softball coach. “I believe we can challenge for a conference title…if we can communicate and trust one another on the field.”
The Pioneers start the season away against No.1 Virginia Wesleyan College on Friday in Arizona where for the first time they’re playing in the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) Leadoff Classics.
Although the Pioneers lacks experienced players, the newcomers possess excellent qualities that could further the team’s success.
Freshman pitcher Sarah Byrnes mastered an unique technique to hurl the ball.
“The combination of her movement and pinpoint control is what makes her so special, “ said Cohen. “She will begin the season starting the same 1 vs. the #1 team in the country.”
Freshman catchers, Alexis Davis and Ashley Callahan, also brings a wealth of talent to the team. Both players are known for their dominate arms and are not afraid to throw the ball to pick someone off the base path.
The returners are stepping up their game as well.
Junior 3B player Christine Griffith brings national attention to the Pioneers; she was one of the 50 players named to the 2018 Scutts Sports/NFCA Division III National Player of the Year watch list.
“Christine is a 1st-team NFCA All Region, all ECAC, and all NJAC a year ago,” said Coach Cohen. “Christine led the team in BA, HR’s, RBI, and total bases.”
Out of the 19 players on the team, there are only three seniors: co-captains Eleni Lutus (catch-fielder) and Adelle Hickman (2B) and Kara Molnar (1B).
Co-captains have high hopes for the team, uniting the newcomers and returners together.
“Coming together in the right time is the ultimate goal for us,” said Hickman. “We are a young team and we have a lot to offer. People are going to underestimate us and we’re really good. It’s just coming together at the right time.”
Though the Pioneers are underrated, Coach Cohen believes that it could be used to the team’s advantage.
“The NJAC coaches do a pre-season poll, based on how they think your team will do throughout the year,” said Cohen. “We were voted to finish 7th out of 10 teams. We are truly the underdogs and I have no problem with that. We are the only ones that know we are better than 7th and could potentially shock some schools. Only time will tell.”