With the changing of the seasons, the 2017 Shippensburg University softball team is going through changes as well.
This season, the team will be under the direction of Alison Van Scyoc, who is taking over for Bob Brookens, who retired following last season.
“I think I couldn’t have asked for a better way to end 2016 and start 2017,” Van Scyoc said. “I’m here to take the reins and continue to build the program. I think personally, I am beyond excited.”
The team’s roster has no seniors, and is looking to rely heavily upon its junior class. Van Scyoc believes that the team’s youth is one of its strengths.
“I think that it is a blessing in disguise,” Van Scyoc said. “I think as a first-year coach it’s probably more beneficial for me, because I really have to step back and think about what am I teaching instead of assuming they understand the fundamentals of the game. We’re certainly expecting some of our young girls to make a big impact. I think the youth to a certain extent is going to be an advantage.”
In the opening weeks of practice, the team has stressed the importance of coming together as a family, to help the team grow together for the grind of the season.
“A big focus for us has been understanding that we are a family,” Van Scyoc said. “We’ve talked a lot about our pillars of excellence, which are humility, passion, reflection, thankfulness and positivity. We’ve worked on building a daily lesson into our practices to kind of build our team chemistry. I believe if we have good team chemistry, it’s going to show on the field.”
“I think that the camaraderie is really good,” junior catcher and outfielder Macy Luck said. “We’ve been through a lot and its really brought us together, and we work really well as a team so far. We’re really excited to see where it goes.”
The team has also benefitted from the warmer weather, as the team has practiced outside before traveling to its first game for the first time in years.
“The weather has certainly been amazing for us,” Van Scyoc said. “In my years here we have never been on the field in January. I think us being able to play early is helpful, as we get to go down to UNC Pembroke and work out some of our kinks and the lineup concerns that we have.”
The team, picked fourth in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) East Division Preseason Coaches’ Poll, looks to its junior class to lead the team to success.
“Our junior class is a pretty experienced class,” Van Scyoc said. “We are returning a group of girls that have had a lot of innings from the previous year. I think what is best about them
is that they understand they are the leaders, but they’re pushing our younger girls to step up and be leaders as well.”
“This is a young team, we have a lot of growing pains to go through,” junior infielder Maddie Mulhall said. “We aren’t expecting to go undefeated, but we are expecting to work our butts off to at least reach our goal of making the PSAC playoffs at the end of the year.”
The team is looking to rebound from last season’s 18–25 campaign, but the team is optimistic about this coming season, after finishing its final 10 games with a 6–4 record.
“We are very good at playing to each other’s strengths,” Mulhall said. “We also know how to pick each other up. I’m very excited to see that come out on the field. There is going to be growing pains, but we’re definitely going to shock some people this year.”
“We are looking to build on the momentum from the end of last year and have it carry into this year,” Luck said. “The PSAC is definitely going to be tough, but I think that we’re stronger and better than anyone else so we’re ready.”
The team opens the 2017 season Feb. 3 at UNC Pembroke. The Raiders’ home opener is Mar. 31 against Kutztown University.