Leadership is an integral part of a team. Throughout history, many great leaders have succeeded in helping their teams achieve success. Athletes like Tom Brady, Paul Pierce and Jason Varitek will always be remembered as true leaders in the eyes of Boston sports fans.
Keene State College is no different. Great leaders have trudged through the halls of the Spaulding Gymnasium and the fields at Owl Athletic Complex, donning the red and white of the KSC Owls. This year, the KSC softball team sought leadership from two seniors who were wrapping up their four-year careers.
A young team, sporting ten freshmen and a starting line up that played host to five first-year players, the Owls needed leadership. And that’s exactly what they got fromseniors Jessica Fiorenza and Nicole Dupuis.
Dupuis said that although the experience of leading her team was enjoyable, it wasn’t necessarily easy. “It was nerve-racking at first. There was a lot of pressure trying to get everyone to come together and really get everyone to play well together. With ten freshmen, you get to college and you kind of go crazy, so the key was getting them to calm down and know that they are here for softball,” Dupuis explained.
Fiorenza agreed, “I wasn’t too sure how everything was going to go at the beginning of the season with all these new players coming in but looking back on it, they made it easy on us.”
Fiorenza is hitting .324 with one home run, 22 RBIs and 21 runs scored. Nicole Dupuis is hitting .333 this year, with three home runs, 22 runs batted in and 11 runs scored. Dupuis is also second in the Little East for doubles with 12.
If statistics are any indication of the team’s success this year, they certainly speak for themselves. The Owls finished the regular season 21-14, with a 12-3 record at home. Their regular season success earned them the fourth seed in the LEC tournament, which begins on Thursday, April 30. And some members of the time attribute some of this success to their senior leaders.
“They’re [Fiorenza and Dupuis] both very focused on the success of our softball team,” KSC freshman Anna Glassman said. “[Fiorenza] is constantly trying to get us pumped up. And sometimes some of the girls get down when they strike out or aren’t playing well, [Dupuis] always tries to lighten the mood. She has a good sense of humor.”
Glassman started the season off on the injury list but since then she has hit .370 with eight runs batted in. Glassman was also honored as the rookie of the week for the Little East Conference last week.
KSC freshman pitcher Mariah Crisp also attributed some of her succeses this year to her catcher, Dupuis.
“[Dupuis] helped my game a lot this year because she knows how to call a really good game behind the plate. She knows what she’s doing. She always keeps the batters guessing,” Crisp said.
Crisp’s successes have not gone unnoticed this season. Crisp leads the Little East Conference in virtually every pitching category including; ERA (1.04), strikeouts (186), innings pitched (135.0) and wins (17). She’s also very close to the KSC single season strikeout record, previously held by Lindsey Blood (192) and the single season wins record, previously held by Sue Pranulis (19).
Although the freshmen on the team may give the seniors credit for a good season, captain Fiorenza sees it as a combined effort. “We had a really good group come in, and it was interesting to see them develop this season. They were very respectful and they took Nicole and me serious from the beginning. And that was important. It made it really easy on us to get the team going in the right direction,” Fiorenza said.
Fiorenza isn’t just concerned about how the team finishes this season, she said she is also looking forward to seeing her teammates succeed in their future careers at KSC. “They have really bright futures. They are really hard workers and they are great players already. It will be interesting to see them as seniors and how much they grow and develop as players,” Fiorenza said.
Although Dupuis won’t take all the credit for her success as a leader, she was quick to point the finger elsewhere. “When I was a freshman, I had Stephanie Lavado as my senior captain and she was a catcher as well. It was important for me to have that guidance. It made me feel less lost. More like I had a place and someone to look to if I needed her. I wanted to be that for them,” Dupuis said.
And that’s exactly what she was for one member of the team. Anna Glassman said, “I’m a catcher as well so [Dupuis] definitely influenced me a lot. She motivates me to become something like she is in the future as a very successful catcher and hopefully a captain. I hope I can inspire people the way she has inspired me.”
One former KSC athlete who watched Fiorenza and Dupuis grow throughout their career was Katie Bradford. Bradford was a four-year shortstop for the KSC Owls and played alongside Fiorenza and Dupuis for three years.
Bradford said, “I think they have grown a lot since their freshmen year. And I am proud of them. They had to take this whole group of new freshmen and they’ve done some really great things with this team this year.”
She added, “They’re just good kids in general. I don’t think Charlie [Beach] could have asked for two better leaders.”
After a lengthy four-year career that led Dupuis and Fiorenza to their leadership role, they will soon leave their glove and bat behind as they prepare for the real world.
Although there are countless things these two seniors will miss about Keene State College and the softball program, they were able to narrow it down.
“I will miss playing the most, just as simple as that. That level of competition doesn’t really exist after college. Even though this is what I love to do and this is what I am good at, it just can’t happen anymore. I’m good at other things but not things I enjoy like softball,” Dupuis said.
Fiorenza added, “being around my teammates every day, that’s going to be the hardest part to leave. Leaving behind 15 or 16 people that you see everyday and that you are so close with is tough.”
Michelle Berthiaume can be contacted at