Lions look for secret to GNAC success in Florida

by Beacon Staff • March 18, 2009

Redemption is in the air for the women's softball team after last season ended with tears and disappointment.

The Lions lost their second game in the GNAC tournament, 6-5 to Pine Manor College and could not pull it back together. Their season ended in a third round loss to St Joseph's of Maine with the score of 3 to 0, falling short of their expectations.

"Last year we thought that we were just going to be handed the GNAC," said senior first baseman Jessica Silva. She said the early exit last year from the regional tournament has crystallized a tougher mindset going into this season.

At the National Training Center in Clermont, Florida, the Lions showed they mean business. The team flew down during spring break to compete in a tournament with some of the top teams in the nation.

They ended with six wins and four losses, taking down two nationally ranked teams, Ithaca College and Rochester University.

Spirits were high when the team stepped onto the field with Ithaca College.

"Coach Phil [McElroy] had been talking about Ithaca since I was a freshman," said audio production major Silva. "This is the team we have been waiting to play because this was the team we aspire to be."

Ithaca was ranked 17th nationally going into the tournament. The Lions started strong, leading 5 to 1. Ithaca battled back and capitalized on a few Emerson errors, tying the game 5 to 5 in the sixth inning. The seventh inning was the Lions' last hope before the game was to be forced into extra innings. It was do or die.

Leading off the seventh, center fielder and Captain Bridgette Farago put the ball in play, taking back the momentum. The Lions were able to score, beating Ithaca with a final score of 6 to 5.

The Lions' success at the tournament was an eye opener for how great they can be this season.

"I am looking forward to getting this season started so I can get over last year," said Coach McElroy.

The Lions ended up in fourth place in the GNAC last season, a disappointment after a successful season in which they took the GNAC, and qualified for the Regional NCAA tournament. In the tournament they lost their first game to Tufts University, who ended up in second, won the next two games and then were eliminated by a loss to Wellesley College.

Their ego will not catch them this time. The Lions are getting down to business, working to prove that they are the best team in the GNAC.

Coach McElroy said his team is deeply stacked with strong returning players in almost every position combined with a handful of gifted newcomers who have been trying to fill the shoes of the talented exiting seniors; especially Mallory Moretti and Lindsay DeStefano.

"Depth, athleticism and freshman impact players have made us a well rounded team," said Coach McElroy. "Our talent is just ridiculous."

The graduation of four seniors, three four-year starters has led to a slight change in the game plan this season especially on the offensive side.

"It's going to be hard to replace their run production and their speed," said Coach McElroy.

Senior shortstop and co-captain Catie McDonough is keyed up for the season. The team's strength on the field is key to winning games.

"Defensively we look great," said McDonough, a print journalism major. "We always have nine skilled players on the field at any given time."

"This year the team chemistry is better than ever," said McDonough. "We spend countless hours together at practices and yet we still want to hang out with each other afterward. It's a great thing to be a part of. Everyone respects each other and that will only help us on the field."

Energized and anxious to start the season the team is ready to show what they got and not willing to back down.

"So as long as we stay focused there should be nothing holding us back," said Silva. "No questions asked, we are the team to beat."