Jacqui White, Sports Editor
After coming off a season where they went 20-18 and played in the Empire 8 Conference Tournament, the Utica College softball team were already looking forward to making it to the playoffs again. Last season, the Pioneers were 2-2 in the E8 playoffs before losing 12-1 to St. John Fisher.
The Pioneers started off their season in Florida, going 4-6 before heading back to Utica. The team’s best win in Florida came against Delaware Valley University, where the Pioneers won 8-2.
Senior outfielder Hayler Fredericks explained that even though the team lost in the playoffs last season, they were still extremely happy to have made it to the tournament, especially considering all the injuries they suffered.
Fredericks said one thing that the team has added to the way they practice was self-care.
“We’re putting a lot of emphasis on self-care this year,” Fredericks said. “That includes going to the trainers more if we feel something is off and taking better care of our bodies.”
Fredericks also said that, along with the other things that the team is doing, their practices have become more intense to prepare the girls for the season.
“We’re trying to build off of last year,” Fredericks said.
One of the ways that the team is building off the past season is trying to create stronger chemistry between teammates.
“We have a few new freshmen this season and they’re doing fantastic,” she said.
Goals that Fredericks has for the team stem from last season.
“I want us to win E8 and win the NCAA championships overall,” she said.
As for herself, Fredericks explained that her goal is just to be able to “get out and play on the field.”
“I’m coming off three surgeries in the past year,” she said. “I had a surgery on my shoulder and then two surgeries on the same knee. My goal is to get out on the field.”
Head coach Pat Mineo shared his expectations for the season and how far he thinks they could go this year.
“I hope we make it to the playoffs again,” Mineo said. “We have seven new freshman, including a new pitcher, Jane Field.”
Mineo explained that Field won her first collegiate game recently, helping the team win 4-3 over Skidmore on March 24.
“We lost a few kids last season, but picking up the extra pitcher will help,” he said. “I’m hoping the new freshmen will step up.”
One player that Mineo is looking toward to help the team is Nicole Rice, who was All-Conference for her job at second base for the Pioneers.
“We lost our first baseman and Nicole stepped up, and she’s playing first base now,” Mineo explained.
Mineo said that in absence of Rice at second base, two freshman are now sharing the position.
“I don’t really like to set goals, but I think we have a good shot again to getting to the E8’s and then to go to the NCAA Tournament,” Mineo said.
Sophomore infielder Sara Stransky echoed her teammates thoughts about the new freshmen on the team.
“We have a lot of freshmen this year,” she said. “They’re all proving themselves early to have a lot of talent.”
For herself, Stransky has the goal to help her team in any way possible.
“Last season, I didn’t have a set spot on the field,” she said. “I earned third base this season.”
To continue the success that the Pioneers enjoyed last year, Stranksy wants to get their season record above .500 early.
“We had a rocky start last year,” Stransky explained. “This season, if we stay on top and get ahead early, I think we’ll have a better season than last year.”
Even though the team started the season 4-7 last year, they had a 12-game win streak that helped get them into the E8’s.
“My goal for the team this season is to start winning earlier in the season,” she explained. “We already have the mindset that we did it once.”