The Georgetown softball team, coming off a tough 2015-2016 season, is ready to leave the 9-35 season behind and move into a new year.
This weekend, the Hoyas travel to Miami, Fl., to play in the Felsberg Invitational. This season’s squad brings back nine starters and adds seven new faces, creating a blend of experience and talent that Head Coach Pat Conlan has been looking to create by developing a mindset of preparedness in her players over the offseason.
“I think the mindset is that it’s always a clean slate,” Conlan said. “What we’ve done in the past and what we’re going to do next year has no bearing on where we are right now. I think our preparation began at the end of last year. We had a fantastic offseason and fall workouts for our kids, getting strong in the weight room,”
Senior catcher Gabriela Elvina — a perennial starter behind the plate — has emerged as a team leader this season. Elvina has started more than 40 games the past two seasons, posting a career high .384 on base percentage and a stellar .978 fielding percentage last season. Coach Conlan expects Elvina to have a big year for Georgetown, and stated that it will start with her leadership.
“We have a nice blend of newcomers and returners, Gabby Elvina is a senior for us this year and she’s been a great leader for us behind the plate for four years, so we’re looking for her to have a standout senior year,” Conlan said.
Coach Conlan also emphasized that the younger members of the team will be taking on larger roles this season. Specifically, sophomores Mallory Belknap and Theresa Kane are stepping into the role of starters at second base and center field, respectively, as well as alternating the leadoff spot in the lineup.
“Mallory Belknap was a starter as a freshman and will take over at second base for us, and Theresa Kane will man center field for us, and between her and [Belknap] they will be somewhere around our leadoff spots, so they’ll be our tone setters,” Conlan said.
The biggest contribution will come from the team’s new additions to the circle, as freshmen Anna Brooks Pacha and Katie Vannicola shore up the team’s rotation and provide some much- needed depth and talent for the Hoyas. Conlan said she has high expectations for her new pitchers, who both come off highly successful high school careers, leading their respective teams to contention for state championships.
“Obviously the college game is much more challenging than anything our freshman have experienced in the past, so we know there’s going to be a learning curve, but we like where we are right now,” Conlan said of her freshman pitchers.
The Blue and Gray open this season as part of a strong tournament field hosted by Florida International University — a tournament team this past season. Conlan emphasized the point of this travel was to give the team experience playing against multiple conferences and enjoy some warmth in the southern part of the country.
“The way I build the schedule is to try and find challenges and some places that are fun to travel to as well. We play an eclectic schedule and we play a lot of different teams from many different conferences, and I think that prepares us well for the Big East conference,” Conlan said.
The Hoyas open the tournament on Friday against Rutgers, a Big Ten squad, and face the host FIU of Conference USA later on that day. On Saturday, the Hoyas repeat the same two matchups and end the tournament facing another C-USA foe in Memphis. Conlan stressed the importance of carrying over their preparation and execution from their practices to the diamond this weekend, especially in the circle.
“We’re going to go as far as our pitching takes us,” Conlan said. “I think our pitching has to keep us in ball games, and I think we have a strong offensive lineup right now. I know we can score some runs and play clean defense, so if we put those three things together, that’s where we’ll have success.”
The Hoyas’ first game on Friday is set for 10 a.m. against Rutgers, and will be followed by a matchup against the hosting FIU Panthers at 4 p.m.
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