Yeowomen Softball Seeks to Improve on 12-Win Season

The Yeowomen softball team enters the spring 2018 season with both their largest-ever team and largest-ever first-year class following a year in which they improved their record from 2–35 to 12–28. With their lone All-NCAC Second Team select sophomore infielder Alexis Dill returning, along with junior center fielder Emma Downing — who led the team in batting average (.374), on-base percentage (.500), and runs scored (33) — the team will look to continue their development.

Head Coach Sara Schoenhoft, who enters her third year in the program and has seen to the rapid growth of the Yeowomen squad, said she wants to see their improvement carry over into North Coast Athletic Conference games.

“The goal was just to keep progressing last year,” Schoenhoft said. “We got a lot more recruits and nine more wins, and this year we’re just trying to keep things moving. Our goal this year is to really make a dent in winning conference games. We only took two of those last year, and we really want to start competing there.”

Along with Dill and Downing, some key returning players will be senior outfielder Dana Rae Goldstein and senior pitcher Sandra Kibble. Goldstein was essential on offense last year, batting .368, and Kibble led the team in innings pitched (98.0) and strikeouts (25). As seniors, they have seen the softball team go through a complete overhaul under Schoenhoft. In their final season, Kibble hopes that they can try to match some of the success that Yeowomen sports programs have had recently, such as with track and field and basketball winning their respective NCAC Championships.

“We’re the youngest program at our school, so it kind of makes sense that we have the [worst] record still, which isn’t an excuse but it’s definitely a factor,” Kibble said. “We definitely get riled up knowing that there are all of these amazing women’s teams doing so well. They’re so dominant right now, but they also took a few years to really get going, so it gives us some motivation knowing that.”

Even with so much returning talent, the young Yeowomen roster still has a lot of work to do in determining their lineup. While in previous years a player may have started because she was the only one at her position, or a small injury could derail a season because there were no players on the bench, this team has had more position battles than any in recent memory. Junior Kat Ladouceur and first-year Sophia Musiak will both see time at first base. Junior Millie Cavicchio and sophomores Leandre Glendenning and Dalia Silverstein will all compete for second base. First-years Gianna Volonte and Emily Tucci will vie for time, with both looking to secure a starting role in the outfield. With All-NCAC Honoree Grace Evans graduating last year, first-years Maddison Paladino and Jackie Bednar will both take turns behind the plate.

“One of the biggest improvements from last year was the overall intensity,” Schoenhoft said. “People were coming down to get extra reps, and we’re really committed to the program and the values. That has definitely continued this year, and I think we’ve actually seen more improvement. The deal-breaker for us this year is just that we’re really young — we have no seniors in the infield — so we’ve been working on communication. It’s necessary that those players get experience.”

With such a young team, building chemistry is the primary concern going into the year. The Yeowomen will have plenty of games to test out lineups and give players in-game experience before conference play kicks off March 31. In fact, the Yeowomen will spend spring break playing 12 teams from across the country when they travel down to Clermont, FL. While a majority of their key players are returning from last year, getting experience will be paramount for the budding program.

“Softball is a very team-oriented sport,” Downing said. “I could do amazing in center field, but if no one hits, we’re not going to win. Sandra [Kibble] could pitch the game of her life and only give up one hit, but if we don’t score, we’re not going to win. We had a lot of people in new positions last year — first-years in key positions — and getting those 40 games of experience is huge for our team’s development.”

The Yeowomen will kick off against the Washington and Jefferson College Presidents Sunday before traveling to Florida.

“I think we definitely feel ready to play,” Downing said. “We’ve been practicing for about five weeks now, so we’re ready to play games. Everyone on our team could play and even start, so I think we’re going to use our first games to experiment with different lineups and situations.”