Courtesy of Mercer Marketing
The Women’s softball team went undefeated in the 2015 pre-season. Headed into spring, the ladies hope to continue their dominance.
Head coach James DeFeo, who is in his fifth year as the softball head coach, credits the team’s preseason success to their unrelenting preparation. He said that while many athletes come into the school year a little bit lagging behind on fitness and determination, this group of girls needed no easing into the season.
“We didn’t have to bring them back and rebuild and get them into shape. Day one of this spring, they were ready to go. You can see it in their eyes, they’re ready,” said Coach DeFeo.
Seven of the eight starters remain on the team, with only one graduating in 2015. Though a fairly seasoned team, accomplished freshmen and highly-sought transfers only strengthen the depth of this year’s team.
Sophomore Quirisa Mauga said the freshmen are poised to step into important roles as the season comes around.
“They’re going to be a key part of winning this year,” said Mauga.
Coach DeFeo praised the depth that this year’s team has fostered. From top to bottom, DeFeo said, the players all have the ability to step up if anyone struggles during the game.
Junior Caroline Taylor said though the team only has two seniors, the gaps in age only bolster team chemistry.
Rodriguez agreed, saying that “It doesn’t matter if you’re a freshman or a senior, we’re all in it together.”
Though she would not admit it herself, all of senior Natalie Shiver’s teammates said her leadership academically and on the field is powerful for the younger teammates.
“She’s not a very vocal leader,” said Mauga of Shiver. “But, she shows by her energy.”
Aside from being a decorated player on the field, Shiver was awarded a spot on the Capital-One Academic All-American Second Team for her talent in the classroom.
Junior transfer Maxine Rodriguez spoke highly of the team’s broad range of strengths.
“We’re a versatile team. So we have speed, power and a pitching staff. We are hoping to go ahead and dominate the conference and make it to NCAA regionals,” Rodriguez said.
Playing like Bear needs to be a priority, expressed Coach DeFeo. Doing so means “taking care of the little things,” and attacking the game.
Though Mercer has certain sports that dominate spectator turnout, the push to support all teams has turned into a student-driven initiative.
On Jan. 21, nearly every single student athlete flooded into the stands while the Women’s basketball team prepared to enter the stadium after returning to their locker room for a short period following warm-ups. Even the stoic Coach Gardner said she got a lump in her throat.
“That’s the kind of thing that we want,” Coach DeFeo said. “An environment where school support has no boundaries.”
Coach DeFeo pressed the importance of mutual support throughout the Athletic Department, being one of the coaches who sees the work his athletes put in but does not always garner the attention it deserves.
“Success breeds success,” DeFeo said.
Softball has its first season game on Friday, Feb. 12 against Michigan State and kicks off conference matches —what Coach DeFeo dubs the “meat and potato” games – on Mar. 25 against Samford.