Some people say that change is good. For the College of Staten Island women’s softball team, they are hoping that change is great! For the Dolphins in 2013, a total of 9 new faces will sport uniforms on the diamond this season, with most to all blending with just five returners to play early and often, forming a new version of the squad with hopes for the same result: excellence.
The Dolphins, who have won CUNYAC Championships every other year since 2005 will be looking for similar outcomes this season, only this time they will have to do it coming off of a sub .500 campaign for the first time since the 2008 season. Last year’s Dolphins finished 17-20 overall, but did excel within the CUNYAC, sporting an 11-1 record and the No. 1 seed in the postseason tournament, but falling to eventual champions Baruch College in the final, 5-0.
“We are very excited to start the season,” says CSI coach Dr. Stella Porto, who embarks on her 11th season this year. “We’ve worked very hard to get some top prospects here. We have a young team, strong defensively and very aggressive and hungry. We are ahead of the curve.”
For one, the Dolphins will be sporting a slimmer roster this year, sporting just 14 players this season. Only five players return in 2013, but Porto knows that is not about quantity but quality, and all five players are returning players who have already packed a punch, and now will build on their resumes. The pool begins with Brittany Smith, the defending CUNYAC Rookie of the Year, who batted an exceptional .456 a year ago, adding 35 stolen bases and .987 glove in the center of the outfield. Stephanie Solari and Victoria Procopio were just as dynamic, combining to hit well over .300 with 16 extra-base hits, and sporting a 7-15 record in the circle with 51 strikeouts in 130 innings pitched. Infielders Samantha Tallerine and Taylor Kaplan will look to build on limited freshmen campaigns a year ago.
“Our returning players need to be role models and keep our small team moving forward,” said Porto, who purposely kept the roster number small knowing that the team would be graduating no one in 2013. “Last year, we had some injuries and we slowed down a bit at the end. Our returning players will be better for it this year and we expect them to keep the younger players moving in a positive direction all year long.”
You can’t get excited about CSI softball, however, without talking about the new faces, 9 altogether, many of whom will see action from day one. Porto thinks that all 9 have enough talent to have successful careers at CSI, and is ear-marking players like Christina Tufano, Jennie Hosty, Chyanne Gilliam, Alissa Setteducato, and Danielle Locke as all being torch-bearers for the program moving forward. From top to bottom, CSI should sport a championship lineup every time it takes the field.
“I don’t think we’ve ever had a group as good defensively as we will have this year,” Porto said. “Our new players bring a great mental game to the field this season. Moving runners over, hitting for production over power, our speed on the base paths and our fielding will all be anchors to our game.”
There will be questions for the Dolphins in 2013. The team graduated two-time CUNYAC Pitcher of the year Danielle Ponsiglione and Player of the Year Kaitlyn Flynn. The duo nearly rewrote the entire record book at CSI, and their shoes will be hard to fill, at least in the early-going. Porto is confident the team can handle their loss, but not without a few growing pains.
“We will be a different team this year,” she explained. “In years past we have been a very explosive offensive team whereas this year we will be more strategic and deliberate with what we do. I wouldn’t be surprised if we used two and three pitchers each game, keeping teams off balance with speeds and control. We will take our time to get better and find our way, but we will get there.”
No matter what the personnel is, year to year the Dolphins are expected to contend for a CUNYAC crown which holds with it an automatic berth into the NCAA Division III National Championship Tournament, and 2013 will be no different. No matter what the win-loss record says, Coach Porto is confident her team can vie for a title in 2013.
“Our players are our best recruiters,” said Porto, “They sell the program and keep us moving forward athletically and academically. We still feel we can be an elite team but the pressure is on big time. The commitment will be there and we will work on moving the program forward as we always have and I think we can surprise a lot of people who may look at our roster and what we lost and write us off. All I know is, as players and coaches, we have very high expectations.”
The Dolphins will start their season, weather permitting, this Friday, hosting Briarcliffe College at the CSI Softball Complex for a 5pm doubleheader. The team will play its conference opener on March 30 against Hunter College, also at home, at 12 Noon. That same afternoon, CSI will be raising money for Jake Schron Foundation. More information on that will be available soon. Admission to all CSI women’s softball games is free of charge and PG CLUE Certified for all students.