Home Homepage Latest Stories Montclair State Softball Is Poised to Turn Heads This Year, Listed as NJAC’s Dark Horse

Montclair State Softball Is Poised to Turn Heads This Year, Listed as NJAC’s Dark Horse

by Daniel Neshan

The Montclair State University softball team has flown under the radar this off-season, but is destined to turn some heads this season. The Red Hawks currently sit at No. 7 in the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) Softball Preseason Poll, however, they were listed as the “dark horse” of the conference this season by coaches across the league.

Finishing their 2023 season at the 8th spot in the conference standings with an overall record of 20-16 and conference record of 6-12, the Red Hawks left much to be desired. Though, with a revamped coaching staff and new face leading the charge, the team is looking to make some massive improvements.

Now under the lead of newly-hired interim head coach Nicole Degenhardt, the Red Hawks are looking to pull off a complete 180 from last season and shock the conference. Without Alyssa Borozan, the team’s star player from last season who led the team in AVG, OPS, runs and hits, the team is going to be relying on both their returning players as well as the new ones.

“The group is a great group, they are hard-working and when you’re stuck inside for so long, it’s just nice to get outside,” Degenhardt said. “As a whole, I think that this team is just doing a really good job and I am really excited to start the year. We were stuck inside with the weather, but now I can’t wait to see the team play outside, ready to go.”

One player to keep an eye out for this season is sophomore Liz Mullen, who started all 36 games for the Red Hawks last season as a freshman and posted a .364 AVG, while recording 39 hits and 25 RBIs. This year, she looks to continue putting up dominant stats and improve upon her performance from last season.

Another player to look out for is Stephanie Seretis, a senior who is a dual threat for the Red Hawks, posting a 0.70 ERA last season over 30 innings of work, while also getting it done with the bat. Seretis put up a .340 AVG last season in 106 at bats, recording 26 RBIs in the process.

Degenhardt is not just bringing a new staff with her, but also a new style of play. Last season, the Red Hawks led the NJAC in batting average but were second to last in home runs, with just four. This year, Degenhardt is looking to abandon a contact-heavy approach and seek more power from her players.

“We’re definitely (adopting) a different offensive philosophy, our coaching style has been more about power, doubles and home runs,” Degenhardt stated when asked whether the team will be changing their strategy. “Trying to transition into it has been huge for us, but we’re also trying to increase stolen bases. We’ll still play the small ball, but I think you will hopefully see a bit more pop in some of their bats.”

In addition to their strategic changes physically, the team has also worked more on improving their mental aspect of the game. Softball is often said to be more of a mental game than physical and Degenhardt has found that focusing on that could be a game-changer this season. The team has concentrated on mental training and improving the players’ softball IQ and situational awareness.

Some of the team’s training includes concentration grids, listening to podcasts as a team, reading motivational books and dedicating the first five minutes of practice every day to breathing exercises and meditation. These methods, which are meant to prepare players for any high-stress, bases loaded-two outs situation, can aid in easing their nerves and elevating their performance.

With a revamped coaching staff and a completely new mindset and philosophy, the Red Hawks are looking to prove that these changes have built them into a better team and prepared them for the 2024 season. As this year’s “dark horse” team, do not be surprised if the Red Hawks outdo their expectations and turn some heads in the process.

You may also like

WP-Backgrounds by InoPlugs Web Design and Juwelier Schönmann