The 2022 season did not go the way the Montclair State University softball team expected, but thanks to splitting their last regular-season series against Stockton University, the Red Hawks secured a playoff spot. Now, they will have to prepare to face the top dog of the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC): the Rowan University Profs.
The Red Hawks currently have an overall record of 23-16 on the season but have struggled against the New Jersey Athletic Conference with a 7-11 record against them. Despite struggles with injuries and adjusting to different field types, the players fought hard and were able to achieve another chance.
Despite the numbers, senior utility player Alyssa Borozan believes the team chemistry will ultimately serve them well.
“This team is really a special one,” Borozan said. “I feel like even from the start coming in we really bonded. We had our ups and downs this season. We had some really big wins and some tough losses but overall I think we’ve been playing well and we’ll finish out the season well.”
Head coach Anita Kubicka reflected on how her team always played till the end and never lacked effort.
“Softball’s the type of game where you’re playing a lot of doubleheaders,” Kubicka said. “If you’re trying to get through an injury, it’s tough for you to recover from something. [But] we definitely battled adversity.”
Injuries did indeed create challenges for Kubicka and the team. However, they were still able to come out with 23 wins on the season and a chance to make the playoffs.
“You add some key injuries and I had to move the lineup around and had to move the infield around and I had to move things around,” Kubicka said. “That took a little time to gel together, and then we started playing better again.”
The conference was a difficult one this year with teams like the Profs and The College of New Jersey (TCNJ), who are both nationally ranked. Rowan and Kean University shared a conference record this season of 15-3, while the TCNJ Lions hold a 13-5 record.
“When we go up against [the top teams] we’re really putting out our best fight,” Borozan said. “We’re always the underdog. Sometimes we don’t show up and they take advantage and sometimes they don’t show up and we take advantage.”
Borozan has been a standout player thus far. She led the team with a .404 batting average, 57 hits and 45 runs. She was a key player that fully contributed to the 23 victories for the Red Hawks.
“She’s been more disciplined,” Kubicka said. “She used to want to swing at everything when she came into the batter’s box and now she’s disciplined herself more as a lead-off hitter. I like her aggressiveness. The main thing we’ve been trying to do with her is just to be aggressive in the zone.”
Borozan spent a lot of time during the season working on her swing by looking at video footage to learn how she can improve.
“It’s a lot of practice and repetition,” Borozan said. “When I’m doing poorly I look at the adjustments I can make. Even in the games, from at-bat to at-bat there are opportunities to make adjustments and I feel like I focus on what I can do better each time.”
This season also found sophomore pitcher Stephanie Seretis to be a contributor to the team’s success with a 1.26 ERA and only allowing six runs in total. Seretis had shoulder surgery about a year ago and has shown great progress throughout the season.
“I tore my labrum my senior year of high school so I had surgery,” Seretis said. “This year I really feel good [with] it. It hasn’t been a bother to me and really was an inspiration to play harder so that’s what I’m trying to do now.”
Kubicka is thrilled with her progress.
“She put a lot of work into her recovery and rehab,” Kubicka said. “I’m glad to see that she’s reaping some of the rewards. I’m happy to see that things are coming together for her.”
And while off-season play is on the horizon, a decent amount of people will be leaving the team next season. With eight players leaving and new personnel coming in with the incoming freshman class.
“It’s almost like playing a game of chess, you have to put the best pieces out and make it the best you can both offensively and defensively,” Kubicka said. “My goal is to get my incoming freshmen playing like they’re not freshmen, like they’re better than freshmen.”
The ultimate goals for the season are to play in May and be in the top 25% of the NJAC conference. And while the Red Hawks squeaked into the top of the NJAC, games in May are now a reality. The question is how much longer they can stay in it.