Rivera in a game last season. This year she earned a place on the All-Conference First Team and will lead the Seawolves this season. ARACELY JIMENEZ/STATESMAN FILE

The Stony Brook Softball season is around the corner and the team is poised to exceed expectations. With three veteran senior leaders and several new additions to the roster, the Seawolves are determined to reclaim their first America East Championship since 2013.

Stony Brook finished third in the America East last postseason and are projected to repeat that mark once again, according to the Coaches Preseason Poll.  

“I think that we obviously can be so much more than just third,” junior pitcher Melissa Rahrich said. “And I think that this team, in particular, has a chance to do even better than that.”

The Seawolves have built up chemistry, spending the offseason practicing together and playing in team scrimmages against each other. The team is led by some confident players who have lofty goals for the season.

“I’d say the goal is obviously to win the America East Championship,” senior catcher Irene Rivera said. “This team is definitely looking promising for this season.”

Overall, the most prominent quality in this team is the chemistry between the players.

“I would say we have more team chemistry on the field and off the field,” Rivera said. “I think we all gel with each other very well.”

Rahrich and Rivera, two of the team’s leaders, are looking to improve upon their impressive performances from last season.  

Rahrich, a pitcher and first baseman, led the team on both sides of the plate with a .453 batting average and 164 innings pitched in her sophomore year. Rahrich earned the America East Player of the Year honor and was named to the NFCA All-Region Third Team for her outstanding performance. The junior enters the upcoming season as the No.45-ranked player in the Softball America’s Top 100 Division I player rankings.

“It came as a really big shock to me because usually Stony Brook is not really on the map,” Rahrich said. “I was surrounded by Alabama, UCLA, Washington and all those top programs and it’s a really huge honor to be able to represent Stony Brook on that list.”

Rivera was also tabbed on the All-Conference First Team with Rahrich. The catcher led the conference with 36 runs batted in, knocked out five home runs and concluded last season with a .301 batting average. Now a senior, Rivera reflected on her mission of concluding her collegiate career with a title.  

“I remember the first day I came in as a freshman and I didn’t think it would go this fast,” Rivera said. “And here I am about to start my final season and it happened in the blink of an eye. I just really want to put everything out there and really try to win a ring in my final season.”

The incoming freshmen are also expected to make an impact on the team right away. Infielders Taylor Juenke and Lindsey Osmer, catcher Chloe Vangorder and pitcher Shelbi Denman are all tasked with making an impact this season.

“This is a terrific class in terms of character, personality, competitiveness and skill set,” head coach Megan T. Bryant said in a press release. “With their athletic ability, experience and confidence, we expect all four players to make an immediate contribution to Seawolves’ Softball.”

The schedule this season features many challenging opponents including Nebraska, Yale and Georgetown through the first three road tournaments. Despite owning a 15-game road stretch opening the season, the Stony Brook team remains enthusiastic at the upcoming challenges.

“Our philosophy has been to schedule quality non-conference opponents to get us ready for the always tough America East,” Bryant said. “This year’s schedule reflects that desire to challenge our team and sharpen our sword.”

Stony Brook will be doing a lot of traveling throughout the season, with trips scheduled to Colorado, Florida and Washington D.C. Each trip consists of weekend-long invitationals in which the team plays two games on Friday, two games on Saturday and one game on Sunday. Rahrich, a Colorado native, is ready for her return home for the Colorado Invitational.

“I’m very excited,” Rahrich said. “I think that the atmosphere is gonna be awesome, and I think there’s gonna be a lot more people wearing red than expected.”

Through veteran leadership and confidence, this team will strive for the best season Stony Brook Softball has seen yet. The journey from third in the conference to winning a championship will prove to be challenging, but it seems to be headed in the right direction. The Seawolves will start the season on Friday, Mar. 1 against the Idaho State Bengals for the Colorado State Classic.