March 8, 2012
EASTON, Pa. -
"Me is less than we." The Leopards' quote of the year is the team's approach in 2012. Wearing "I play for her" bracelets this year, the student-athletes are as much a team as they've ever been and will need contributions from everyone to succeed in the Patriot League and beyond this season.
The 2012 Leopards are confident, focused, resilient and looking to drastically improve upon an 8-39 mark in the 2011 season in Meaghan Asselta's first year as head coach. What has Asselta done in one offseason to ignite this team?
"The players know that its their team this year, not mine. Their voice counts. The kids see that changes have been made over the offseason and have bought in."
Three seniors, Gwen Turner, Stacey Dorn and Carly Feiro, will serve as team captains.
"All of the players feed off the captains," Asselta said. "These three have always been consistent but will take that consistency to another level this season."
Hitting in big parts of the lineup, Asselta looks for the trio to anchor the Leopards offensively and defensively this season.
On the other end of the spectrum, Asselta has five new faces on College Hill, two of whom could see significant playing time in their freshman seasons. Kristen Berger (Middletown, N.J.) will start at shortstop for the Leopards after posting a .520 batting average throughout her high school career. The other freshman looking to see time is young arm Alex Campanaro, a lefty from Piscataway, N.J., who is coming off a 27-14 career record with a 1.40 ERA.
The Leopards know that their record last season was not an indication of the team's talent and will to succeed. They know the can play with anyone and are out to prove that in 2012.
Sophomore Lauren Murphy will anchor the infield from the hot corner. Splitting time with now-first baseman Madeline Allen last year, she was a top-five hitter, averaging .242 with 11 RBI. Murphy has been impressive this offseason and Asselta believes her bat will be very hot this season.
On the other corner, Allen moves to first base, where she played four games last season. Splitting time at first and third last season, she managed 29 at-bats while knocking in two runs.
Up the middle, Jordan Parsons will make the move back to second base after playing shortstop for most of last season. Parsons batted for a .237 average with 10 RBI in 2011.
The fresh face in the infield for the Leopards will be Berger at shortstop, from whom Asselta is expecting great things. Berger will hit in the nine spot, restarting the lineup for Asselta.
Freshmen Caitlin Summers and Victoria Vergona will serve as backups at third and first, respectively.
"We have the best outfield in the Patriot League. No doubt about it," Asselta said when asked about the back end of her defense.
The Leopards feature two seniors on the corners and a centerfielder who, with more playing time this year, can produce for this unit.
Senior co-captain Carly Feiro will solidify the right side of the outfield in 2012. Feiro hit .279 with 12 RBI in 2011. "The Enforcer" is the captain that makes sure everyone is giving their all, mentally and physically, in every practice and every game.
On the other side, senior co-captain Gwen Turner returns to left field as an offensive force for this squad. With her team-high 143 at-bats last season, she was able to hit for a .315 average and led the team with seven stolen bases.
Sophomore Amy Gebhardt will take over the starting spot in center. In only 38 at-bats in 2011, Gebhardt hit for a .158 average and knocked in three runs.
"Amy has a cannon of an arm. She just didn't get enough time last year," Asselta said.
Senior Cody Kugler will see time in the outfield for the Leopards. Kugler hit .222 last season in nine at-bats.
Freshman Kelly Lallis brings speed and outfield depth to the Leopards, backing up Carly Feiro in right field.
PITCHERS AND CATCHERS
"M-Ro is our ace," Asselta said when asked about her pitching staff.
Melissa Robinson is coming off a stellar freshman season, in which she led the team in just about every statistical pitching category. A ground-ball pitcher, she went 6-14 last year with a 2.82 ERA and 17 complete games.
Joining Robinson on the mound in 2012 will be junior Emily Noel and freshman Alex Campanaro.
"All of our pitchers are nice complements to each other," Asselta said of her staff.
Noel was 0-6 with a 7.77 ERA in 2011, while Campanaro joins the Leopards as a freshman.
All of the pitchers can hit, and Campanaro will play multiple positions in the field. Asselta expects Noel and Campanaro to see time in the majority of games this season, whether pitching, at the plate or in the field.
Behind the plate, co-captain Stacey Dorn returns for her senior season as the top returning hitter from a year ago. Dorn, a vocal leader, hit for a .326 average with a .465 slugging percentage, and a .356 on-base percentage, all second last season to Stacey Kushner `11. Dorn hit three home runs last season and knocked in 12 runs in 2011.
Sophomore Rachael Trupp will backup Dorn behind the plate.
Asselta returns for her second season at the helm of Lafayette softball. She has learned immensely from her first year on College Hill and has adapted to the challenges of coaching at Lafayette.
"The Lafayette student-athlete is very different. They challenge coaches to adapt to them, rather than the other way around. My strength is in my adaptability to athletes, and I am using that to my advantage this season."
Asselta has become more open and involved with her student-athletes since arriving on campus in July 2010.
"I view coaching as a lifelong relationship. I am very involved in their lives, on and off the field, because I want to give these girls a female figure that they can look to whenever they're in need."
Asselta is confident that she has made changes to turn the Leopards into a Patriot League contender.
Next to Asselta on the bench this season is second-year assistant Ed Nelson. Nelson has coached the game at various levels for 27 years.
The Leopards will open the 2012 season in Kissimmee, Fla. at the Rebel Spring Games on March 10-17. The week-long event features 12 games against opponents from all over the country including Detroit, Florida A&M, Bryant, Utah Valley, Wagner, Howard, Youngstown State, Cleveland State, Wagner, Columbia and Green Bay.
"Florida gives us a chance to build cohesiveness," Asselta said. "With half of the team in one condo, and half in another, they will have to get along. The girls will develop team chemistry and get to know members of the coaching staff on a more personal level."
The home opener is Saturday, March 24, when the Leopards will take on Manhattan. After a two-game set at Villanova, they will open Patriot League play against Lehigh in Easton in a four-game series on March 31 and April 1.
"We're always excited for Lehigh and all of the Patriot League games," Asselta said. "We're basically just pumped for the season to get under way."
Finishing up a six-game homestand, the team will travel to Drexel and Holy Cross on April 5-8 for a six-game road set. The Leopards will then return home for eight straight against St. Joseph's, Colgate and Temple on April 10-17.
On April 18, Lafayette begins an eight-game road trip at St. Peter's for two games on April 18. A four-game set at Army follows, and the trip ends with two games at Rider on April 24. The Leopards will be back home on April 26-29 for six games against Marist and Bucknell.
The team ends its 2012 regular season with a doubleheader on May 1 at Rutgers. Patriot League Tournament play is scheduled for May 10-12.