sports volume 30
june 6, 2013
Lions softball qualifies for the state tournament after best season in years By Yu-En Chang and Lizzie Fineman photo courtesy of Michele McDonald
The Lions celebrate a finished inning. With new training regimens and experienced coaching, the team acheived one of its best records in years and qualified for the state tournament.
For the past three seasons, confidence on the team,” she said. South’s softball team has finished “The plays that didn’t used to go either one or two games shy of our way are going our way and qualifying for the state tournapeople are tougher … We walk ment. This season, however, a little taller this year than in the proved to be different. past.” The Lions finished the Although the whole regular season with a record of 12-player roster contributes to 14-6 and a strong seeding for the Lions’ victories, freshman the tournament. After finishing pitcher Kim-An Quinn has espewith a 9-11 record last year, both cially excelled this season. Quinn coaches and players were motipitched for the squad last year as vated to push this year’s team to an eighth grader and, according reach at least a .500 record, which to players and coaches, has made is the minimum for tournament tremendous strides in her skills. qualification. With a strong start, Alper said that the amount the team qualified in game 12 and of progress Quinn made came as tack on more wins as the season a surprise to her. “I wasn’t aware progressed. of the leaps and bounds that Kim A number of factors has made in improving her pitchenabled the team to exceed past ing,” C she said. “She works really, BY YOONCHAN HOI records, according to players. Sto- really hard in the off-season.” ries of failed attempts at reaching The addition of former Babthe postseason motivated freshson College softball star Nicole man Monica Cipriano. “I really Latini to the coaching staff has wanted to make the tournament also been a catalyst for the team’s because I kept hearing stories success, according to coach Dave about how close the team had Salett. come to qualifying in the past,” “Nicole joining our team Cipriano said. “Also, I knew some made a huge difference ... There’s of the seniors already, and really nothing like having a young wanted them to be able to make female role model who’s a great playoffs for their senior year.” player herself,” he said. “[It’s South has had strong important to] give the kids a persoftball teams in the past, but this spective on what it’s like to play in year, senior captain Maya Alper a close game when you’ve actually feels that the team has got a hold done it, and Nicole has done that of more aspects of the game than and has been able to impart her in previous years. “Everything experience onto the team.” has sort of fallen into place for The players believe that us. We’ve had good teams the last Latini has brought new intensity couple of years ... but this year it’s to the sport. Several returning just been a whole different air of varsity players participated in
rigorous weekly workouts under her guidance. Latini said that this offseason strength and conditioning had notable effects on the team from the start of the season. “You could just tell how strong they were; their conditioning was up. At first they kind of laughed at what I expected of them, then they realized ‘wow … this is actually going to help me with softball,’” she said. “The work that they have put in in the offseason, I think it showed. And in those big games … they have the endurance to stay in those games and their energy is up … I think that has done a world of good for them.” Salett agreed and said that the team’s hits, throws, speed and general strength have all benefitted from this training. Quinn also said that training and conditioning in the offseason was a main contributor to the team’s success on the field. “During the offseason, we had a lot of strength and conditioning training, which made us more prepared for the season to come and we were all setting goals to do well this season,” she said. In addition to noticing increased physical strength, Latini said she has seen significant growth in mental toughness. “I think it’s helped them mentally ... they’re now realizing that they are able to accomplish things that they weren’t able to accomplish before,” she said. “Whether it’s mental or physical ... they’re definitely tuned in, in that aspect.”
Because of the positive results from the offseason workouts, the several members of the squad already plan on continuing their training early in the coming year. The strong team chemistry and positive attitudes on the team also contribute to their accomplishments. According to Salett, the girls’ positive outlook on their season has had great effects on their success. “They have a very good outlook on what sports are about, and they very easily get over difficult times ... They’re very easy to coach, and they’re a pleasure to coach,” he said. “The girls have a great attitude. They don’t put a lot of emphasis on winning or losing. They work hard in practice, and the chemistry on the team is like nothing you’ve ever seen. Everybody gets along with everybody and I think that also goes a long way to getting winning results.” For Cipriano, the great team bond takes a lot of the pressure off her shoulders. “For me, knowing how friendly everyone is allowed me to go on the field and not second guess myself because I was nervous of what the rest of the team would think,” she said Even with the loss of three seniors next year, the Lions hope to improve in the 2014 season. According to Quinn, expectations are anything but low for next season. “The team can still be playing at the level we are at now, and hopefully even a higher level,” Quinn said. “It’s hard to imagine
next year without the seniors, but I think we can definitely be just as good, or maybe better if we work as hard as we did this year.” Salett hopes to have more players participating in clinics during the offseason, so that next year the team can better compete with elite softball programs in the Dual County League. “My goal is to get a couple of wins against those teams, and I believe that it will happen ...The philosophy on the team is to work hard, get better at your skills and have a great time,” he said. “We don’t make winning a goal, that’s just a result of everything else.” Latini also hopes to make the South team into an elite program while still keeping the sport fun for players. “If they continue to work hard, there’s no reason that they shouldn’t be extremely successful going forward,” she said. Although she is sad to be leaving the team, Alper is excited to see the team’s successes in the coming years. “I’m upset I won’t get to be apart of it, but with Kim ... she has three more years on this team, and I can’t wait to see what she does,” Alper said. “It’s not about one person or one player, it’s a team effort, and everyone can contribute, from freshman to senior and top to bottom.” After a spirited comback against Lynn Classical in the first game of the tournament on June 1, the Lions were eliminated with a 6-5 loss.