The College of Staten Island women’s softball team is looking to usher in a new decade in much the same way it capped the last one, with a championship pedigree.  Having won four CUNYAC titles since 2004, the Dolphins narrowly missed an opportunity in 2010, falling in the championship final to Baruch College, but 2011 holds the promise for a return to the championship circle for the Dolphins, who return 13 players, including four seniors.
The team blazes into 2011 under Head Coach Dr. Stella Porto, who in her 9th season at the helm is already CSI’s winningest softball coach.  The skipper needs just 24 wins to eclipse 200 career wins, and already has six-straight 20-win seasons in the bank.  The Dolphins are also a healthy 19-6 (.760) since 2003 in the CUNYAC double-elimination playoffs and with almost a complete lineup returning in 2011, the Dolphins are hoping to raise the win total once again.
The return of a solid foundation will be the anchor of the club, and in no way is that more evident than in the pitcher’s circle, where junior Danielle Ponsiglione will be handed the reigns once more.  Just midway into her career, Ponsiglione is already among CSI’s all-time leaders in ERA (3rd, 2.10), wins (3rd, 31), complete games (2nd, 46), innings pitched (3rd, 310.2), and strikeouts (4th, 180).  The St. Joseph by the Sea High School product registered 28 complete games last year with a 20-9 record and 3.03 ERA.  This year, however, Ponsiglione, could see a lesser load as she will get ample help in the circle.
Fellow junior Michelle Ferraiuolo logged in over 65 innings in 2010 and will shoulder a load, as will a healthy Danielle Brandow (So.), who only registered seven innings of work a year ago.  Also into the fold will be first-year hurler Stephanie Solari (St. John Vianney HS/Old Bridge, NJ), who will be expected to hit the ground running in 2011, giving CSI another unique look in the circle while doubling in the outfield.
The Dolphins’ .961 fielding percentage a year ago was the second-highest in CSI single-season history, and much of the success comes from an air-tight outfielding crew that also packs a powerful punch at the dish.  The anchors are senior Jennifer Volpe (.342, 7 triples, 38 hits, 13 RBI) and Jillian Castore (.264, 21 games played, 14 hits), with the insertion of sophomores Kristi Dillon (.261, 5 doubles, 18 stolen bases), and Catherine Ebro (11 games played in 2010, who also both double behind the plate at catcher.
Senior power-hitters Joanna Tepedino (.274, 3 HR, 18 RBI) and Raechel Strobel (.367, 9 extra base-hits, 20 RBI) are CUNYAC all-stars who have sound gloves, while junior Katelyn Flynn mans the hot corner , having played a CSI high 40 games a year ago, leading the team in hits (36), doubles (7), homeruns (5), and RBI (34).  Junior Jenna Schulman, who also platoons in the outfield, should see time in the infield, alongside sophomores Tracey Rooney and Amanda Winant.  Newcomer Diana Stout, fresh off stints from the volleyball and basketball hardwood, will also see extensive time in her freshman campaign.
All tolled, the Dolphins are limitless with possibilities, returning a healthy majority of a team that was on the doorstep of a CUNYAC Championship a year ago and have added just enough extra firepower to make the transition into 2011 a promising one for sure.
The Dolphins open the season on Monday, March 14, opening up a three-day, six-game tour through competition in Tempe, Arizona, as part of spring training.  The return returns to Staten Island to open up the home slate of competition against non-conference Drew University on Saturday, March 19, for a 12 Noon doubleheader.