FLASHBACK FRIDAY – #2 SOFTBALL MAKES NCAA HISTORY

Flashback Friday looks at the top moments from the 2014-15 athletic year at the College of Staten Island.  This week we highlight the runner-up to the top moment of the year, when the CSI women’s softball squad scored a 9-1 win over William Paterson University in the opening game of the 2015 NCAA Division III National Championship Tournament.

#2 – Women’s Softball – History Made at NCAA Regionals
Date:  May 8, 2015
Who:  CSI Women’s Softball vs. William Paterson University
Where:  Kean University – Union, NJ
What Happened (click links for highlights):  Coming off of a tremendous run through the CUNYAC Tournament, the Dolphins entered the 2015 NCAA Women’s Softball Championship Regional round of play at Kean University against William Paterson University.  History didn’t favor the Dolphins.  The team was 0-6 all-time against the Pioneers and CSI hadn’t won a national tournament game since 2007, suffering 10 straight losses since.  Powered behind senior Brittany Smith, the Dolphins bucked the trend and scored a one-sided, 9-1, win over an error-prone WPU squad on the gorgeous afternoon in Union, NJ.  Smith started by stroking a single, stealing second, advancing to third on an error and stealing home to give CSI a 1-0 lead in the first inning.  The Dolphins then exploded for four runs in the fourth to take a 5-1 lead, before Smith would single, steal a base and move two bases on wild pitches to move CSI up, 6-1.  Finally, a three-run seventh inning, punctuated by another pair of CSI steals and an RBI-double by Chyanne Gilliam gave CSI the eventual 9-1 final.  CSI scattered 11 hits and five stolen bags in the game, highlighted by Smith 3-for-4 performance at the plate with four stolen bases and three runs scored.  Sophomore pitcher Jacqueline Cautela took the win, holding WPU to just five hits while walking only one.  Unfortunately, an injury sidelined Smith for the rest of the tournament and CSI lost the following two games, but the Dolphins took a tremendous step forward in the annual event.  CSI finished the season with a program-best 31-12 record.

4377Looking back…with Brittany Smith
Going into the NCAA’s the team was rolling after a great CUNYAC Tournament.  How excited and motivated was the team going into the NCAA’s?  After winning a three peat CUNYAC Championship, the team was extremely excited and motivated going into NCAA’s.  Our goal of the season was not only to three peat as CUNYAC champions but to make yet another appearance in NCAA’s.  This year the team was extremely determined to put the College of Staten Island women’s softball team’s losing streak at NCAA Regionals to an end.      

Last year you had to travel to Virginia to play in the NCAA Regional to play teams you had never seen before.  What was it like learning that this year you would stay local against familiar teams?  It gave us a sense of relief because we knew exactly what we were up against and what to expect of each team.  This season we learned that any team is beatable on any given day and that anything is possible.  Competing against these teams we knew we would have to bring our A-game and fight hard in order to be successful.  As a team captain I would constantly remind the team that it’s not about how good you are but it’s about how bad you want it.

The team got off to a great start against William Paterson powered by your stolen bases and stealing home plate in the first inning to go up 1-0.  Did you feel that set the tone for the game?  I believe stealing home plate really set the tone for the game because it helped to add fuel to our fire and it really got the team motivated.  Competing against teams like WPU and Kean University, Jackie Cautela and I always said “It’s going to come down to who scores first.”  Scoring first allowed the team to go out onto the field with confidence and allowed us to play more relaxed.

After three innings the score was tied 1-1, but defensively behind Jackie Cautela the team was very sound.  Was good defense the key in the early innings?  Yes, I strongly believe our defense was key in the early innings.  Although offense helps to score runs, defense is what wins games and keeps you in the game competing. Throughout the season we constantly stressed the importance of defense.  

The work on the base paths coupled with some errors fueled a four-run fourth for CSI and then you came in again in the fifth inning scoring on a wild pitch.  Did you feel that was the focus, to take advantage of those mistakes?  Playing powerful teams such as WPU, you can never settle for less or give up.  We knew one run was not enough to win.  We knew it was important to gain insurance runs.  We most definitely capitalized and took advantage of the errors and mistakes they made.   
 
No one expected a 9-1 win against a powerful team like WPU.  What did it do for the team’s confidence, and what do you think the win says about the make-up of this team in 2015?
A win like this
 is exactly what this year’s team wanted to do.  In past years CSI has always been known as the underdog.  The goal of this year’s team was to prove everyone wrong and show everyone that we too can compete against these powerful teams. This win expressed the fight, determination, and motivation that this year’s team had.     
 
Your season ended with a tough injury but you finished your personal career at the very top of your game.  What can you say of the amazing career you had and the season that was?   
A career ending injury is every athlete’s worst nightmare.  I never imagined my softball career ending in such as way.  For as long as I’ve been playing softball I always approached every game as if it is my last, and that is exactly what I did my senior year.  I knew coming into the season it would be my last and that I could not take any game, inning, or at-bat for granted because you never know when it’s going to come to an end.  Going into senior year I knew at the end all I would have left are the amazing memories with my teammates.  As a result, I went into the season with confidence and an optimistic attitude.  Knowing it was senior year I was just playing relaxed and having fun.  I believe this is what contributed to my success, especially this season.  Although I blame my injury for the team’s losses the next day, I can say overall I am satisfied with the career I had. I am thankful for my coaches, teammates, and the rest of the Dolphins fans who supported me every step of the way and shared this amazing journey with me.  

Other Highlights
Staten Island Advance Article
Sights & Sounds (courtesy Jim Waggoner, Staten Island Advance)
Game Story
Boxscore
Postgame Interviews
 

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CSI coaches and players line up for their historic match.
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Jacqueline Cautela held the potent WPU lineup to just five hits.
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Brittany Smith was a catalyst with three hits and four steals

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