New Coach, New Season, New Attitude
Feb. 24, 2011
"New" is the key word describing the Lafayette softball program. There is a new head coach in Meaghan Asselta who took over in July and has infused energy and fostered team camaraderie. There are eight fresh faces on the roster with several looking to crack the starting lineup in their first seasons on College Hill.
The biggest change may be the least visible coming in terms of team chemistry and overall attitude, something the head coach has pointed to as a theme for 2011.
"This team has a mixture of experience and youth. I have been very happy with how hard they have worked in the fall and into the early spring practices," Asselta said. "We are very excited to get the season underway."
The Leopards do not have to fill a lot of holes with the loss of just one key player (Kasey Karr) to graduation, but that doesn't mean that there won't be significant changes. Asselta has sweeping changes to lineup with many of her players finding themselves in new positions and new roles.
After the fall season and the early-spring workouts, Asselta is sure of one thing.
"We're going to be able to hit the ball. These kids love to hit and it is certainly going to be a strength of our team this season. We're also looking to cause some chaos on the basepaths this year to supplement what we do at the plate."
"This will be a change for me in terms of coaching because in my previous coaching experiences we were always stronger defensively than offensively," Asselta said, noting that three of the team's top four hitters return. "We're starting from a different place, but I am confident that we'll see significant improvements as the season goes on."
Senior Kerry Griffin returns as the team's top hitter after connecting for a .343 average with 14 RBI. Griffin will reprise her role at first base where she split time with current sophomore Madeline Allen last season.
Allen, who started 30 of 41 games she played, is making the rare move to the other side of the diamond, taking over at the hot corner where she will compete with freshman Lauren Murphy.
Up the middle, sophomore Jordan Parsons will take over at shortstop and hit from the five spot. She played 43 games in the middle infield, but at second base while junior Gwen Turner was the starting shortstop. Parsons hits for a .243 average with two RBI and 16 RBI.
Turner makes the switch from shortstop to leftfield for her junior campaign. She started 46 games in each of her first two seasons. Turner, who led the team in stolen bases in 2010, will be the likely candidate to lead off for the Leopards.
A new face but an experienced player, junior Mary Episcopo, takes over in center field. Episcopo transferred to the Leopards' program from the University of California at Santa Barbara where she started 15 of 29 games played in 2009 and played 20 games as a freshman in 2008. She is expected to hit from the two spot.
PITCHERS & CATCHERS
The Leopards' pitching staff is going to be much deeper than it was in 2010, as five players will compete for innings. Freshman Lauren Hasson will likely get the ball to start the season, joining fellow freshmen Melissa Robinson and Lauren Murphy, who is also spending time at third.
In terms of collegiate experience, senior Ali Henry has 77 appearances with 51 starts in her previous three seasons. Henry was 2-6 with a 5.59 ERA in 2010. Fellow senior Christine Hilcken (2-8, 6.96 ERA) has 17 starts in 38 appearances during her career.
Sophomore Emily Noel started five games and made 11 appearances with a 1-4 mark as a freshman.
At the other end of the pitcher-catcher battery are senior Stacey Kushner, junior Stacey Dorn and freshman Rachael Trupp. Kushner hit for a .276 average with nine home runs, eight doubles and a team-best 22 RBI and will bat from the No. 3 spot in the lineup this season. Dorn also drove in 22 runs while batting .250 as a sophomore. Kushner threw out five runners and Dorn two last season. Dorn will split time with senior Kristin Garganio at designated hitter, likely at cleanup. Garganio hit for a .276 clip with two home runs, 12 doubles and 19 RBI in 2010. Both are right-handed batters. Trupp is in her first season with the Leopards and has one of the strongest arms behind the plate.
Lafayette breaks the seal on the 2011 season on Friday, Feb. 25 through Sunday, Feb. 27, playing four games in the Campus Suites Spartan Classic hosted by South Carolina-Upstate. The Leopards will open with Oakland (Mich.) on Feb. 25 before playing La Salle and host USC-Upstate on Feb. 26 in Spartanburg, S.C. The tourney closes with Howard on Feb. 27.
An even larger test looms over Spring Break in Osceola, Fla., where the Leopards will participate in the Rebel Spring Games. Lafayette will play 10 games over six days from March 11-16, playing two games a day with March 14 as an off day. Indiana State, Bryant, Temple, Detroit, Siena, Columbia, Houston Baptist, Akron, Youngstown State and Rider are the scheduled opponents.
"The Florida tournament will be a really good measuring stick for us," Asselta said. "With the quality of teams that we will be facing, we'll know what we need to do on a consistent basis to be successful."
Lafayette continues at its hectic pace, closing out spring break by participating in the Seton Hall Pirate Classic on March 18-20. Lafayette will face Scared Heart, Manhattan and Seton Hall with two additional opponents to be determined.
The home slate and the conference calendar get underway on the same weekend when the Leopards host Holy Cross in a four-game series April 2-3. Lafayette will then play eight straight on the road, venturing to Wagner and Rutgers before making the short journey to Bethlehem, Pa. to face Lehigh in conference play on April 8 and 10.
Lafayette will turn around and play seven of nine at home from April 12-20, including the Army series on April 16-17. The Maroon and White host Colgate on April 30 and May 1 to close out conference action. The four-team Patriot League Tournament is scheduled for May 12-14.
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