Felician University's 22-27 won-lost record in 2017 represented the most victories for the softball program since 2006. But by season's end, the Golden Falcons found themselves in a familiar position – fighting for one of the final seeds in the annual eight-team Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference (CACC) playoffs.
Felician qualified for the conference tournament with a doubleheader sweep on the regular season's final day, but was eliminated from contention in the tournament's early rounds. Looking ahead, second-year head coach Alexis Durando is hopeful that her squad develops a sense of urgency earlier in the season.
"We need to strive for consistency and limit the 'roller-coaster' of the highs and lows," Durando said. "We are looking to continually improve over the course of the season, and see if we can work our way into the top four in the conference to give ourselves the best shot of making a serious postseason run."
The Golden Falcons return three all-CACC position players, as well as pitchers that threw 89 percent of last year's innings. The defense will feature new looks in many areas, and that has been the major cause for concern in the fall and early preseason.
"Our defense has to be tight to support our pitchers," Durando said. "Our infield has not had a ton of time together yet and that is an item that needs to come together as the season wears on. But we're looking forward to seeing our offense produce. Our lineup has proven itself to be difficult to pitch to."
With a 15-player active roster, Durando and assistant Frank Fiore have made sure to emphasize how important each player is to the totality of the final product.
"The players we have on this team are mostly returners who understand the importance of the team culture we are trying to build," she said. "I have also changed tremendously and learned a lot over the past year. Every single person on our team knows she has to contribute if we are going to reach our goals. As a coaching staff, we are focused on keeping everyone healthy and prepared to enter a game at any position and in any situation. My most used words have been 'adapt and overcome.'"
PITCHERS: Senior right-hander Ashley Owens (Lockport, N.Y./Starpoint) already owns several Golden Falcon pitching records. Junior Erin Powers (Aberdeen, N.J./Matawan Regional) enjoyed a breakout sophomore campaign, and the Golden Falcons are hoping for a similar epiphany from sophomore Alexa Raba (Iselin, N.J./Spotswood).
"At this point, Ashley's statistics speak for themselves," Durando said. "Erin has improved tremendously and solidified herself as a solid '1A.' Alexa can provide valuable innings when we need a change of pace."
INFIELD: Junior Mia Montoya (Cypress, Calif./John F. Kennedy) returns at first base after earning Second-Team All-CACC honors. Sophomore Bella Davis (Chula Vista, Calif./Eastlake) may move in from the outfield to claim the second base job, but junior Victoria Quercia (Monroe Township, N.J./Monroe Township) makes the situation competitive. The eminently coachable Quercia could also see time as a late-inning defender or runner.
On the left side, sophomore Jaimie Parisi (Hackensack, N.J./Hackensack), a 'tough out' with power potential, looks to transition from a utility role to an everyday player at third base. True freshman C.J. Apacible (Long Beach, Calif./Lakewood) appears to have won the shortstop job exiting preseason.
OUTFIELD: The Golden Falcons' most experienced unit is led by senior left fielder Jeannette Roldan (Hesperia, Calif./Oak Hills). A courageous, passionate, player, Roldan is comfortable hitting in several spots in the line-up. Strong-armed junior center fielder Steph Donah (Clark, N.J./Arthur L. Johnson) developed into a mid-lineup threat in 2017, and earned second-team all-league honors in the process. Redshirt sophomore Isabella Bradian (Mount Royal, N.J./Kingsway Regional) is looking to overcome a nearly two-year battle with a shoulder injury to play right field and be an offensive table-setter. Sophomore slapper Monica Laverty (Lyndhurst, N.J./Lyndhurst) can back up at any of the outfield positions.
DESIGNATED PLAYER: Sophomore slugger Nicole Spiegelberg (Blauvelt, N.J./Tappan Zee) was an all-region DP as a rookie. Durando hopes to work her more into the defensive lineup in 2018.