SOFTBALL | Returning Starters Crucial to Success
Published: Friday, February 7, 2014
Updated: Friday, February 7, 2014 00:02
While Washington, D.C., will be experiencing some chilly weather this weekend, Florida will be seeing a lot of sunshine and softball.
The Georgetown softball team will open its 2014 season at a tournament hosted by Florida Gulf Coast University, and the squad is eager to finally get out on the diamond.
“I think everyone’s ready,” senior outfielder Elyse Graziano said. “We’ve been practicing a lot indoors, so it’ll be really nice to see it come alive outdoors and in a real game.”
Graziano is one of five seniors and eight returning starters for the Hoyas this season. Although the team lost catcher Shikara Lowe to graduation, Head Coach Pat Conlan that is excited most of her players are returning with another year of experience under their belts.
“It gives us a better foundation to work from. Coming into practice, we don’t have to relearn a lot of stuff,” she said. “Kids understand it; they’ve been through the trenches, and now we have to build on that and challenge them a little bit more.”
The Hoyas, who are coming off of a 21-33 season including a 10-12 Big East record, return two starting pitchers, juniors Lauren O’Leary and Megan Hyson, who combined to start all 54 games last season.
Last season, Georgetown finished fifth in the Big East behind Notre Dame, South Florida and Louisville. These teams have since departed the Big East, making the Hoyas one of the elite teams in the conference.
“It puts us in a more competitive situation [that] gives us an opportunity to compete for not only a tournament championship; but a regular season championship,” Conlan said.
Familiar foe DePaul and newcomer Creighton were voted first and second in a coaches’ preseason conference poll in which Georgetown placed third.
“Any type of polls or awards or preseason honors are really just what people think, and I think at the end of the day, you have to back it up,” Conlan said. “I think we’re excited, we’re honored, but now it’s time to get back down to business.”
Georgetown sees a return of a significant part of their previous starting lineup including sophomores Samantha Giovaniello and Taylor Henry, and seniors Hannah Slovacek and Madeleine Giaquinto as infielders, along with senior Alexandria Anttila and junior Sophia Gargicevich-Almeida as outfielders. The Hoyas are excited for the opportunity to compete in the new Big East, and they’re looking forward to seeing what the four incoming freshmen will bring to the team.
“We have a really great freshman class. If they can be the impact players that I think they are capable of being, we’re going to do good things this year,” Conlan said.
The Hoyas are ready to embark on a 56-game season filled with tournaments and nonconference games. It’s a tough schedule that includes a lot of traveling, but Conlan wouldn’t have it any other way.
“That helps us once we get to conference because the toughest games we should play to me should be in this preseason, which will prepare us for conference games,” she said. “The preseason doesn’t really matter unless you bring the knowledge and experience into your conference games. And I think that’s what we work hard to do.”
Graziano is looking forward to the new season and building on her experience during her last three years at Georgetown.
“I think that we’re using last season as an expectation to be back at the Big East tournament in May, so that’s going to be our goal from that first game in Florida, using it to get better,” Graziano said. “I’m looking forward to being a team leader and seeing how far it’s come since my freshman year, and how the expectations for us as individuals and as a team have changed. Overall, I’m just really excited to play.”
Even though it’s her last season, Graziano is treating it just like every other season — a chance to be competitive and to win. But this year, she’s expanding her role as a leader as she serves as one of the team captains.
“It’s just really important, especially going to a school like Georgetown, with academic pressures that go along with travelling and being away from class so often, just keeping everyone’s head straight,” she said. “It’s really easy to be like, ‘oh it’s just another game,’ but [it’s] recognizing that each one’s important and each one’s leading us to the Big East tournament in May.”
It all starts with their first set of games against Liberty, followed by Florida Gulf Coast, Ole Miss and Western Kentucky, teams from different conferences that the Hoyas do not normally face.
“I think it’s going to be a tough opening weekend for us, but we’re ready,” Conlan said. “We’re absolutely ready.”