For most, the transition from high school to being a Division I collegiate athlete is not easy.
Heading into the spring 2020 season, this truth is all the more prevalent for the Seton Hall softball team. After graduating key players such as Chrisa Head, Ragen Reddick, Destini Peck and Madison Strunk head coach Paige Smith will have to rely on her nine freshmen to get accustomed to life in the spotlight and hopefully make an impact on games when the season reaches its height.
Although the team has a solid core of returning stars and role players alike, 40% of the roster is made up of freshmen. For any coach, that is no easy task. For Smith, the 2020 season has been dubbed with the motto “Fail Hard,” a lesson all too familiar with any newcomer to the scene in any sport.
“They’re hungry,” Smith said. “It’s a fun group of freshmen. They also understand that a couple of them are behind some pretty high-profile kids on our team. So, they’ve all got a role on this team and they’re all working and pushing to make sure at the end of the year that they help us.”
Luckily for Smith, she has a solid core of players returning to help ease the transition with such a young team for the new year. The likes of Hailey Arteaga, Reganne Camp, Mo Sobel all return and will play and active roles in shaping a similar but newly dynamic culture on the turf.
“I think that this year we have the entire returning group mentoring everybody,” Smith said. “With nine freshmen, it didn’t just fall onto the shoulders of the seniors otherwise people would have gotten lost. We took a lot of fall; we had some ups and downs with some leadership areas but in the spring I’ve seen nothing but positive moves.”
The biggest thing now for Smith and her squad will be consistency. Finding the freshmen’s footing will certainly take time, but Smith has loved what she and her staff have seen so far out of the group coming in.
“We have definite freshmen who are already contributing,” Smith said. “It’s been fun. I’d almost call them ‘Veteran Freshmen’ coming in. They’ve come from big teams, they’ve been in big games. But also, they’re not afraid to be led.”
Moving forward, the bar is set high for the nine freshmen – Ashly Colonnetta, Grace Dawson, Emily Pena, Taylor Soanes, Miranda Arruda, Abby Wingo, Jordan Tressler, Shelby Smith and Ally Taylor. With one pitcher, one catcher, three infielders, three outfielders and a utility player, there is plenty of depth and growth to go around over the next four years.
“We can actually inter-squad with all returners versus all freshmen,” Smith said. “We haven’t done it yet, but it is something that they always talk about. They’re like, ‘We can literally field a whole team!’ and I’m like ‘Awesome, that should be your goal by your senior year. You should be fielding the whole team.’ It’s nice to have variety but a lot of them even if they’re listed as a certain position can play more than one.”
Softball begins its season on Feb. 8 at the Elon Softball Classic in Elon, North Carolina.
Kevin Kopf can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find him on Twitter @KevinKopfHWH.