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Softball's new look starts off with tough tests

By Dan Hilton, Special To The Chronicle

Last season ended in heartbreak for the Hofstra softball team, losing two games against Georgia State for the 2011 CAA Softball championship. Georgia State would move on to the NCAA tournament and Hofstra faced a few long months to regroup. The team used the offseason to revamp a squad that lost Sara Michalowski, Laura Valentino, and Trisha Dreslinski.

In fact, as head coach Bill Edwards said, "We have a whole new infield than what we had last year. I could have made one or two changes, but I made four changes in the infield to get the combination that I thought would work best for us."

These changes include having senior Jess Hirschbuhl play first base, senior Krista Thorn moving from third base to shortstop, and sophomore Tori Rocha and junior Becca Bigler seeing everyday playing time.

The outfield, as opposed to the infield, returns all three starters in senior Michelle Lavagnino and juniors Tessa Ziemba and Rachael Senatore. There will also be plenty of depth with the positive play in preseason practices of sophomore Ashley Ainbinder and junior D.J. Slugh. With an experienced squad featuring seven returning starters, and eleven juniors and seniors on the roster, leading will be more of a team effort, as Edwards believes leaders will stand out on their own.

"We don't have captains on our team," said Edwards. "Everyone has the ability to be a leader at any time during the course of a season, during the course of a game."

Though leadership will be expected from every player on the roster, Edwards still finds that each player will need to be accountable for their own mental preparation.

"You coach the individual, and if the individual can be the best she can be, then you'll have a pretty good team," Edwards said. "There's one ball being hit to one person, and if that person isn't ready to play, then it's going to be a long year."

The team is taking this year one game at a time. This ideology is especially important with the Pride's difficult non-conference schedule that began last weekend at the Pirate Clash, held on the campus of East Carolina.

Junior pitcher Olivia Galati began the season against the No. 21 Louisville Cardinals, limiting the Cardinals to just one run through the first six innings of the nine-inning clash. The final three innings saw a back-and-forth affair, with Louisville coming out the 7-6 victor.

Later that afternoon, the Pride got off to a fast start again, only to give up six runs in the third inning, eventually losing to Virginia 7-2. The third game of the Pirate Clash on Monday, against East Carolina, saw Hofstra attempt a comeback of its own, only to fall short 4-3 against the hometown Pirates.

Nevertheless, there is no rest for the weary, as the Pride continues its challenging non-conference slate this weekend at the NFCA Leadoff Classic, facing off against ranked opponents in No. 17 Louisiana-Lafayette, No. 10 Tennessee, and No. 12 Michigan.

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