Last week, Montclair State University’s softball team opened up training camp as the team aims for yet another impressive season.
Montclair State had a strong regular season in spring 2021, finishing third in the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) with a record of 13-9. The team was led by powerful bats, with four players finishing with a batting average of over .300. The offense was supported by solid pitching as well.
That effort required an incredible amount of perseverance, as the team faced many game cancellations and postponements early on due to the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. However, when the team was on the field, the Red Hawks more than impressed fans.
Despite a season of solid play, as well as a first-round bye, their postseason ambitions were cut short during the NJAC Softball Tournament, after being swept in two games by Stockton University in the quarterfinal round.
Fortunately for the Red Hawks, multiple impact players are returning in 2022.
Leading the pitching staff is sophomore Ali Cavallaro. In 2021, she finished with a 3.01 earned run average (ERA). The highlight of her season came during a game with Rutgers University-Newark when she struck out 12 batters. That stellar play was recognized when she was named First-Team All-NJAC.
Her teammate, senior Kayla Volante proved to be a reliable starting pitcher as well. She completed her season with a 3.03 ERA as well as throwing back-to-back shutouts. She provides experience as well as consistency to the rotation.
Cavallaro said the pitching core is ready to take over in 2022.
“Pitching is going to be very important [this year],” Cavallaro said. “We’re bringing back a lot of really good pitchers, and we’ve been working really hard [in the offseason]. We’re going to play a big role.”
Offensively, Montclair State is bringing back sophomore designated hitter Kayla Cosentino. The highlight of her 2021 campaign came during a doubleheader against New Jersey City University (NJCU) in April, hitting a perfect five for five, propelling the Red Hawks to two wins. She finished with a .315 batting average, 17 hits and eight runs batted in (RBIs), which should provide consistent offense for the team.
Joining her is senior outfielder/pitcher Alyssa Borozan, who was one of the team’s most exciting players last season. She provided 20 hits, 19 RBIs, along with 12 runs. Borozan has proven to be an elusive baserunner as well, leading the team with six stolen bases.
Cavallaro said the team is focused on taking the next step this season.
“Everyone understands the pressure on us,” Cavallaro said. “But everyone has been super dedicated, and I know that we’re going to be a good team.”
The team is led by Anita Kubicka, who is entering her 32nd year as head coach. Her accomplishments at the helm speak for themselves, as she ranks within the top 10 among active coaches in Division III in both winning percentage and victories. She has taken Montclair State to 14 NCAA Tournament appearances, five national championship tournaments as well as several conference titles. Kubicka’s experience will again be a critical factor this season.
The most profound challenge of this season will be replacing NJAC batting champion Kayla Gallo and shortstop Amber Powers, who both graduated after last season. Both players earned First Team All-NJAC status in 2021. Kubicka said a major focus during training camp this year will be getting back to the fundamentals of softball.
“We’re a work in progress right now,” Kubicka said. “But I’m a firm believer in the fundamentals and having a good strong base to start the season. [We want to] strive each day to become better and better.”
Kubicka also emphasized that their rigorous off-season training program will be key to developing and improving the team’s athletes.
“We focus on athletic movements with our lifting program, our agility program and all of the drill work that we are doing,” Kubicka said. “[We want the players] to be the best that they can be in terms of defense, offense and pitching.”
With a solid core of both offensive and defensive players, along with strong leadership and a historic program, it should be no surprise if this team can pull together another strong performance. Kubicka said she expects Montclair State to put together another postseason run in 2022.
“[We want to] ‘play to May,'” Kubicka said. “It’s one step at a time, and there is a lot of progression in this sport, but ‘play to May’ is always our mantra.”
Montclair State will take the field for the first time on March 3 at the Fastpitch Dreams Spring Classic in North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, before their home opener on March 17.