Emerson’s softball team is preparing for its annual spring break trip—this year to Clermont, Florida—with a team compiled mostly of young players and just one returning senior.
The Lions, which lost seven seniors last season, have been recruiting since last fall to establish a new foundation.
Annie Jenkins, one of the team’s captains alongside junior Courtney Fee, is the lone senior on the team. Her class originally started with five players and eventually boiled down to just her.
“I think being a four-year senior speaks for itself as far as the commitment I’ve made to this program,” said Jenkins, a journalism major. “I hope our younger players can look to me for guidance and support, knowing that I’ve been through a lot of situations before.”
The team, outside of Jenkins, is made up of four juniors, two sophomores, and nine freshmen and has only two returning starters from last season.
Phil McElroy, the team’s head coach, said that the loss of last year’s large group of seniors, and not having players to fill the veteran void, was new territory for him.
“I’ve been here for 15 years, and I’ve never had this young of a group,” said McElroy, currently the longest-tenured coach at Emerson. “Losing seven seniors from last year was kind of a crazy turnover.”
Jenkins said the new additions to the team have been working in the weight room and focusing on the fundamentals of how the team operates.
“Our main discipline is learning to pay attention to detail,” Jenkins said. “Doing the little things right will help translate into more success on the field.”
Jenkins said she believed having a younger team now could eventually lead to some benefits.
“Of course, there is a learning curve to get everyone on the same page, but that also means that for next year, they are only losing one person,” Jenkins said. “They can start working hard together now and keep building on that foundation instead of having a lot of turnover from year to year.”
McElroy said the players will have to learn a style of play that’s different than what they were used to in high school.
“There will probably be a lot of nerves, and a lot of kids that really don’t know what they're capable of yet,” McElroy said.
Freshman Casey Tsamis, a pitcher and newcomer to the team, said she will have to confront more of the fundamental issues that come with the transition to college softball.
“You can't just throw it down the middle,” said Tsamis, a journalism major. “You have to work both sides of the plate and be smart about what you throw to each batter.”
McElroy said that the team, despite being made up of many faces, has already built up a good chemistry, and said the captains’ leadership has made the younger players feel included.
“I’ve asked them to give the [freshman] players a voice and to not just tell them exactly what to do, but to include them on some of the decision making,” McElroy said. “I think they’ve done a really nice job of leading this group so far.”
In 2012 and 2013, the Lions finished 43-8 in conference and 54-24 overall. They declined significantly in their first year in the NEWMAC, finishing just 2-16 in the conference.
The team travels to Clermont to play 10 games from March 6 to March 13.
“We have a group that I’m very excited about with lots of potential and a good work ethic,” Jenkins said.