Nolan Potts, ‘Doah Staff Writer
February 12, 2014
Ask any returning member of the Shenandoah University softball team about their end to last season and they will tell you that it was heartbreaking.
Playing in the ODAC Championship game against number one seeded Virginia Wesleyan (who was ranked number 17 in the country at the time), the number six seeded Hornets took the Marlins to extra innings. In the end, S.U. fell 8-6 in 19 innings, the longest game in ODAC history.
The ladies finished the 2013 season with an overall record of 28-18 (10-10 in the ODAC), which was an improvement from the 24-17 record they posted in 2012. Like any team, they were happy to get to the championship game especially as the number six seed, and even more pleased that they took a nationally ranked team into extra innings. It left a sour taste in their mouths and they want to get back to that game again this year.
“It was a tough game to react to,” added senior Erica Kondzielawa. “We were obviously upset that we lost a game we could have won, but we had made it so far against some high caliber teams and we kept our heads up.”
“Hopefully, we all remember exactly how it felt to come so close and this year we will come out on top,” said sophomore Kimmy Brady, who won the ODAC Rookie of the Year award last season.
Offensively, the team has the majority of their firepower returning as they lost two ladies who played a big role last season. In addition to Brady, who hit .392 and led the team with six home runs, seniors Brittany Guepe (team leading .411 batting average, 67 hits and 43 runs scored), Erica Kondzielawa (.336 batting average), Heather Sink (.328 batting average) and Morgan Coble (.306 batting average and team leading 35 RBIs) all return for the Hornets.
The offense might have a lot of experience returning, but the same can’t be said for the pitching staff. Five ladies saw action on the mound last season, but only sophomore Megan Tripp will be returning.
Tripp appeared in 22 games and started 18 including four complete games. Tripp compiled a 10-6 record with a 3.11 ERA in 96.2 innings a season ago, and the team will look to her to provide leadership since she is the only returning pitcher they have. Other girls who could see action on the mound include freshmen Lindsay Corbin and Helen Good. This group also includes junior Lisa Mitro, who is a transfer from former USA South rival Averett.
The team elected their captains for this season, and they chose three ladies to lead them into this season. Coble and Kondzielawa were both chosen by their teammates, along with fellow senior Kaitlin Robinson. With head coach Marlena Kotynski entering her 10 season with 208 victories at Shenandoah, the Hornets have the experience and talent to rise to the top of the ODAC this season.
In the ODAC preseason poll, the Hornets were picked to finish fifth. While last season may have ended in heartbreaking fashion for the ladies, they don’t plan on having things end that way this time around. In fact, they have higher expectations this year because they now know exactly what they are capable of doing.
“This season is going to be a great one, I can feel it,” said Kondzielawa. “We’re definitely going to make for a tough team to beat and I can see us easily going far into the postseason. We have the will to win and I know we can make that happen this season.”
The team opens their season on Feb. 22 with a home game against Messiah starting at 1:00 p.m. After that, the ladies don’t play again in Winchester until Mar. 30 when they take on the Virginia Wesleyan team that ended their season a year ago.
They have eight home games in the month of April, so at least they will be in front of their home crowd once the weather warms up. All home games are played in Jim Barnett Park and admission is free, so go cheer on the women this season!