It looked like any routine fly ball that Bria Green, left fielder, had to catch. Had she done so, both the game and the America East tournament would be over and the Seawolves softball team would advance to its second-straight NCAA tournament.
But Elizabeth Snow’s off-the-bat ball just kept going until it ended up over the fence, breaking the hearts of the Stony Brook faithful and sending the Albany section into eruption.
The worst part? The Seawolves had to muster up the energy to play a second game, a winner-take-all match to decide the 2014 America East Championship. Albany’s momentum proved to be too much, with the Great Danes dominating Stony Brook 8-2 and taking the title.
“It’s not in the back of our minds. It’s in our minds,” senior Shayla Giosia said of the ending to the previous season.
Looking ahead, the Seawolves return the centerfielder along with Green, their power source from a year ago with 16 home runs. The Seawolves will also continue with their dynamic duo in the circle: senior Allison Cukrov, the reigning America East Pitcher of the Year, and junior Jane Sallen.
“They’re different and complement each other very well in terms of what they throw,” Megan T. Bryant, Stony Brook’s Head Coach, said.
As for the roster, the Seawolves return 10 players from last season’s team. Only four of those players are seniors, with Diane Caruso joining Cukrov, Giosia and Green.
“It’s my last season, so of course I’m going all out,” Giosia said.
They may be few in numbers, but they have a big leadership group with four incoming freshmen.
“I think the leadership from those juniors and seniors will be the key to our success this season,” Bryant said.
The Seawolves lost two key seniors from last season’s team, shortstop Jessica Combs and third baseman Olivia Mintun. Big spots last season, but Bryant believes that losing the entire left side of the infield will not be a problem.
“Jessica and Olivia brought a lot to this program,” graduate of the University of Bridgeport said. “But I think we’re going to be really solid defensively.”
The young players coming into the team will get a to play a tough non-conference schedule before America East play begins on March 21 against UMass-Lowell.
Eight teams on the schedule finished last season in the top 100 in RPI and six of the squads on the slate made the NCAA Tournament in 2014.
“I know it gets us ready for America East play,” Bryant said. “We embrace [the tough schedule]. This has been a part of this program’s success over recent years.”
At the Seawolves’ first two tournaments of the season at Florida Gulf Coast and at North Florida, they will face four teams in the top 100 of RPI.
Purdue (No. 73) and FGCU (No. 90) await the Seawolves Feb. 20-22 in Fort Myers, Fla..
The next weekend at North Florida, Kansas and the NF Ospreys will face Stony Brook.
“Those teams may be tough, but we’re still expected to beat them and to prepare for conference,” Giosia said.
Both of those trips, along with a trip to James Madison, will give the Seawolves a chance to bond and get the chemistry up before the real gruel of the season begins.
“Everybody is excited to get out and see some sunshine,” Bryant said. “It really sets the tone for the rest of the season.”
The Seawolves will try and get back to the America East tournament this season, but this time, punch the ticket to the NCAA tournament for the second time in three years.
“We return the pieces to be able to do it,” Bryant said. “We have the pitching, we are one of the top defensive teams in the conference and we have the ability offensively to score a lot of runs.”