New varsity head coach focuses on leadership, teamwork to build on past season’s success.
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The LT varsity softball team is excited to return to the field after pulling off a major upset in the playoffs last year by defeating Marist, the reigning state champions, and winning its first regional title in six years.
“Everyone on this team has a passion for softball, that’s not something you get at every school,” four-year varsity pitcher Sapphire Munoz ’17 said.
One change that the players and coaching staff believe will lead the team to greater success this year is their new varsity head coach, Nicole Marinec. This is Marinec’s fist time coaching varsity for the LT program. She coached the freshmen level for the past five years.
“The biggest change is the difference in the level of competition,” Marinec said. “There is a lot of pressure on the girls to perform.”
As the new coach, Marinec is changing a lot within the program. There are a lot of new drills, different practice styles and even different practice times, infielder Peyton Hammon ‘17 said.
The program is also becoming much more team-oriented and leadership driven, Marinec said. There has already been an overnight lock-in and several team-bonding practice days.
“The team dynamic is really different this year,” Hammon said. “I love all of the girls on the team and I think, no matter what, it’s going to be a really fun season.”
One of the team’s greatest strengths is speed, Munoz said. Although they lost powerful hitters last year, the team’s speed is filling that void. The team’s positive energy and constant support of each other will also be a big contributor to its success, Marinec said.
“They are very energetic,” Marinec said. “The fact that they always cheer for each other and have each other’s backs is really going to help create and instill confidence that each player needs.”
The team’s depth and size creates a competitive environment among the team, Marinec said. There are 19 girls on the team, and only nine girls can play at a time. Although this creates competition for a starting position, it also makes the team very versatile.
“This group of girls is filled with fantastic attributes like leadership, respect, determination, communication and entertainment which will impact our success in the long run,” Marinec said. “They’re out there to have fun, and I love that about this group.”
Aside from being the new varsity coach, Marinec also has a new assistant coach, Jacqueline Vitale, the previous junior varsity coach. Both were catchers in college and are working well together as coaches now.
“We’re getting to know each others coaching styles and philosophies,” Marinec said. “What I’m thinking, she’s thinking; it’s great.”
The team consists of nine seniors, nine juniors, and one sophomore. Three of the seniors, Munoz Ali Lamana ‘17 and Angel Mendes ‘17 are committed to play softball in college for Division II and III schools, Hammon said. Regardless of what grade the players are in, Marinec expects everyone to rise up and be a leader.
“We work hard because she has high expectations of us,” shortstop Dana Reynolds ’18 said. “She wants more people to step up, even us juniors.”
For her first season, Marinec hopes to win the conference championship and go further in the playoffs than the team did last year, Marinec said. The toughest team in the conference the girls will have to face is Oak Park River Forest, who won the state championship in 2016.
“My expectations are to never give up and to keep that sisterly bond,” Munoz said. “Without that bond, there is no softball team.”