The University of Dayton softball team has a short list of expectations this year: play together, dominate on the pitchers mound and make a statement in the A-10 tournament.
According to head coach Cara LaPlaca, the team spent most of its fall schedule getting to know each other, and it seems to have paid off.
“It was [a good showing] up and down the line,” LaPlaca said. “We had a lot of consistency and the players were able to set the tone for their chemistry.
“We have a veteran pitching staff…we [hope] will carry us beyond where we’ve been the past couple of years.”
After going 22-29 and finishing just short of a second-straight Atlantic 10 Conference tournament appearance a year ago, the team not only expects to make this year’s tournament but possibly win it.
Despite being picked 9th in the preseason coaches’ poll, the team is optimistic about its chances for success.
“We think we can do it,” junior pitcher Alysha Isaacson said. “Our program has been improving a lot over the last few years.”
Dayton in its final series of the regular season on May 5, 2012, dropped the first game of a double header against UNC-Charlotte, which eliminated it from qualifying for the postseason tournament. Isaacson said it has given the team added motivation for this year.
“We’re really motivated after what happened last year,” she said. “We have great players returning. We also have a strong group of freshmen.”
Isaacson added that the way the players interact with one another is an important part to any team’s success.
“We have a lot of key players this year, seniors like [infielder] Carlyn Harlow and [outfielder] Kathleen Maloof are big factors,” she said.
Maloof enters her senior year four doubles away from becoming the all-time leader in the category in program history.
She said the concept of being a team player has been something driven into them since the first day of workouts.
“It’s something that’s on my radar,” she said. “I think it’s cool, but the focus for me is to help the team.”
According to LaPlaca, such an approach will come in handy throughout the year, starting with a season opening trip to Denton, Texas, for the Lovelace Invitational hosted by North Texas University.
The Flyers will open their schedule Friday, Feb. 15, at 10 a.m. against the University of Iowa, with a game against the University of Nebraska immediately afterward. On Saturday, Feb. 16, the Flyers will face Oklahoma State University and the host North Texas. It will close out the first weekend slate with a second game against Nebraska on Sunday, Feb. 17.
“For us, the non-conference schedule is a great tune-up time before starting conference play,” LaPlaca said.
Of the 51 games on the 2013 schedule, the Flyers will play 21 at home, which Maloof said is something her teammates are looking forward to.
“We have a stretch of three weeks where we play all home games,” she said. “This is something I’ve never really had a chance to do in my time here.”
Even so, Maloof said the team has no intention of overlooking other games, adding the team has an approaching of taking it one game at a time this season.
LaPlaca said that the team is rich in talent, with players like redshirt sophomore infield Jordan Jennings and junior catcher Kasi Vasquez taking on larger roles this year.
“We have players who have experienced success here,” she said. “With our freshmen, we have even more talent, too.”
In hoping for a trip back to the A-10 tournament, held in Amherst, Mass., from May 8 through May 12, Isaacson said she feels the potential of this year’s team has a chance to be one of the program’s best ever.
“We just need to focus on the game, stick together and give it our all,” she said. “Then we can be the team we want to be.”