Varsity softball begins, adapts to new coach

Team loses senior players, hopes to create new team culture


Team works on pitchting during practice with Pyles behind the pitcher, giving instructions. (Pohl/LION)

Julia Ludden, Reporter

Following the start of their season, varsity softball is adjusting to major differences. From losing key senior players to hiring a new head coach, this year is riddled with change.

In spite of these adjustments, the team anticipates bouncing back and embracing yet another successful season, varsity co-captain and Northern Illinois University (NIU) signee Tess Meyer ‘23 said. Having been granted access to sit in during the coaching interviews, Meyer had a unique perspective on varsity head coach Megan Pyles, the new hire. 

“[Pyles] has a huge background in softball,” Meyer said. “She has been doing it her whole life, and so she knows the ropes.”

Pyles has been playing softball since she was 7 years old. She played in high school as a varsity starter, then for Moraine Valley College, and even went on to a year of club softball at NIU. Varsity co-captain and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga commit, Peyton O’Flaherty ‘24, was also present during the interview process. She was initially very impressed with this resume, O’Flaherty said. 

“She knows what she’s doing,” O’Flaherty said. “[That] is one of the big reasons we wanted to pick her.” 

As far as coaching goes, Pyles has been doing it for more than five years. She is currently head coach of the travel team the Blazers, based in Willow Springs. She has specifically coached pitching as well, which is especially critical to the team’s current condition. 

“This year our pitching is going to be a bit tougher since the seniors we lost last year were strong in that position,” Meyer said. “Hopefully she can help them out.” 

Three of the graduating seniors last year were pitchers, including a George Washington University player, Lily Hanafin ‘22. Their absences left no varsity pitchers behind. All of the current pitchers moved up from JV. It is challenging to make up for these talented losses, but Pyles remains hopeful, she said. 

“Each pitcher is different so we won’t be at the same level we were at last year,” Pyles said. “We are definitely looking to start fresh and develop what we have.”

Development is an important factor in combating this season’s challenges, she said. The new team is very young, with a lot of new faces, so developing them into the team they had last year, and the team’s past, is one of her goals. 

“I bring a lot of different things to the table, so really pushing for the culture of a team, and team bonding is really a number one goal of mine,” Pyles said. “We actually started our first practice  with team bonding. We did some drills to loosen up, coaches included.”

Pyles has more bonding experiences planned, like volunteering outside of school with Feed My Starving Children, and doing pasta parties to get her team to learn one another’s interests and commonalities.

“I think the biggest thing about a softball team is the bond,” Meyer said. “Since we just got [Coach Pyles], it is going to be harder to create that so soon, but I think bonding activities will help.” 

Hiring a new coach gives a way for all of the girls, especially the ones trying out to be on varsity, an even opportunity, newly positioned catcher and third baseman on varsity Arianna Amella ‘24 said. 

“It’s truly based on first impressions, and gives everyone a good start and baseline,” Amella said. “I am excited to learn a new dynamic based on working with new people.”

Fairness between team levels is hard to achieve with such varying ages and skills among players, yet that is what Pyles is striving for this season, she said. 

“Being young, fresh out of college, I can keep things updated,” Pyles said. “One thing I noticed upon coming in was the equality between levels. That’s one of the big things that I think I can bring to the table that we didn’t have already, equality between freshmen, JV, and varsity.” 

The varsity team will compete next on March 23 at the SC softball fields at 4:30 p.m. against Downers Grove South.