The Misericordia University softball team has all the ingredients for a championship season.
Last season was the team’s most successful in over a decade, as it reached 30 wins for the first time since 2008. Alongside that, the team lost only one senior to graduation and returns the rest of its starters.
The team has completely bought into what head coach Lindsay McCarthy told it to do last year, which translated to success on the diamond.
“Everyone was bought in. We’ve been trying to accomplish that since I’ve been here,” McCarthy said. “This is year five, so when they get a new coach, it is always a tough transition to move into that coach’s philosophy. Last year, we feel like we got everyone on board with what we were trying to accomplish and the steps we needed to take to get to that point. In terms of our coaching style, we did a nice job just building those relationships with them, and that trust factor came on the field. too. We really saw that transitioning happen last year and it translated into wins.”
The success came as a result of a mix of trusting the coaching staff and channeling the physical talent of the team members.
“Athletically, they performed and that’s huge. I am definitely impressed with how much work they put in to get to that point. Between buying in and our athletic abilities, we really just proved ourselves with our record,” said McCarthy.
Junior catcher Brianna Holder believes the team’s closeness was the biggest factor to its success.
“Last year, we had a really small team, so we had really good chemistry not only with the players, but with the coaches, too,” said Holder, an All-MAC second team selection. “Their energy trickled down into our energy, which helped a lot. Also, there was a lot of depth. Anybody that was playing could get the job done.”
Junior second baseman Kiersten Pflueger also believes the community feel for the team was the biggest reason the team achieved so much success.
“We had really good team chemistry. We were a really close-knit team and we were very family-oriented last year,” said Pflueger, who batted fourth in the lineup for the majority of last season. “I feel like everyone really took on their role on the team and did their best in that role, whether it was cheering teammates on or being in the starting lineup. When people came in for clutch opportunities, they produced.”
The team is poised to break out, but that will only happen if the ladies stay committed to honing their craft in the off-season. McCarthy recognizes the team’s athleticism was a major factor in its success last year and has made it a major point of emphasis to her players.
The ladies lift multiple times a week, as well as constantly do hitting and fielding drills on their own.
“We’ve been consistently working through our three lifts a week, but we’ve been working outside of those lifts on our own to stay in shape. Outside of working out, we’ve done a lot of hitting and have made softball our priority even though we are in the off-season,” said Pflueger.
Working when the ladies are not in season is the most critical part of the team’s success next season. In softball, the time McCarthy gets on the field with her players is limited in the off-season, so she tries to take advantage of all the reps she can.
“We only get four weeks with them in the fall, and from here on out, it’s really up to them to keep engaged with softball and with the strength and conditioning program and really seeing the benefits of that,” she said. “That will translate into January when we start back up.”
As the team nears the end of the fall semester, staying focused has been highly emphasized.
“I think the key this off-season is staying consistent and trying to keep all the things that we work so hard on in the fall and not losing out on it by taking days off and things like that,” McCarthy said. “They’ve done a nice job of coming in on their own and doing softball activities. Also, they’ve done a nice job taking advantage of the strength and conditioning program and seeing that correlate with their strength and their softball abilities.”
Looking toward the season, the team has major goals and it all starts with winning that first elusive MAC championship. The players recognize they need to stay engaged throughout the lengthy spring.
“To be even more successful in the upcoming season, we need to be very determined until the very end in every game, every inning and every pitch. We need to focus on not psyching ourselves out and to take on every opponent with a mindset,” said Pflueger.
Staying engaged is the common theme to success throughout the team.
“Every year, we make it to the MAC championship but don’t actually win it just because we get tired,” said Holder. “If even one person doesn’t want to be there, then that is going to affect the rest of the team. I think just working hard to the end and pushing ourselves and having a positive mindset about playing every game will help us take the next step the most.”
The ultimate goal for the squad is to not only go to the MAC championship game, but to win the MAC championship, something that has eluded McCarthy since she was hired to lead the Cougars. Having the first senior class she has seen all the way through will certainly play a role in whether or not that goal comes to fruition.
“The 2020 season is a big one for us,” McCarthy said. “This year, I’ve prided myself on that this is my first senior class that was brought in by me and recruited by me. We’ve seen that progress throughout each year. Our goal, ultimately, is to win the conference. Adding Stevens [Institute of Technology] into the conference is going to be tough, but I think we got the talent that is returning this year to win the conference and move onto the NCAA tournament.”