After a Little East Conference Championship last year, the Keene State College softball team is looking to make strides this year in the same direction.
KSC senior Sara Bracken said she is excited to find out what this upcoming season has in store. She further stated, “I’m also excited to see who will be good in our conference.”
Another KSC Senior Rachel Boynton, said she can’t wait to see the improvement of the returners and how the newcomers adapt to the team.
In addition to that, Bracken explained, “This upcoming season is looking very positive and promising. We are all very eager to get outside play, especially in Florida. We are a big target this year after winning LECs last season and that just makes us want to work ten times harder.”
The new KSC Softball Head Coach Carrah Fisk Hennessey said, “We have built an incredibly strong and balanced team for the 2015 campaign and are looking forward to the opportunity to, ‘Earn the right to be proud and confident.’”
Hennessey said she used to be the KSC Softball Assistant Coach last spring, and was the Head Softball Coach (2000-2009), Head Women’s Soccer Coach (2000-2002) and Assistant Athletic Director (2002-2009) at New England College for nine years.
In response to the overall focus this year, Hennessey said the team’s goal is to play the game with “grit and grace.” She explained, “The grace part of our focus comes into play when we face adversity . . . We are choosing to be positive and to play well in spite of everything that could “not go our way.’”
From the player’s perspective, Bracken said, “The main focus is always an LEC championship, as well as a great overall record.” Along with that, she said she wants the team to make it to the NCAA Tournament, which would be three out of the four years she has made it there in her college career.
Along with this point, Boynton said the overall focus is to get back on top of the conference and to stay there. She explained, “We’re definitely looking to get that number one spot again.”
Hennessey said the former coach, Charlie Beach, is a long-time friend of his, so their game plans and practices are similar because they have adopted similar coaching styles.
Although, Hennessey also stated, “The beauty of the game of softball is that you need to embrace the same fundamental skills, year in and year out . . . What changes is the way you approach the fine-tuning and teaching of those skills. You have to be able to throw, catch, hit, run, pitch, bunt, and be mentally in the game in order to be successful. How we practice those skills looks different than it has in the past, and we’re doing well moving in our new direction.”
With a new coach this year, Bracken said, “Carrah is great – definitely the breath of fresh air we needed this year. She is just as eager as us to win games and succeed this season.”
Bracken explained that the new coach, Carrah Fisk Hennessey, stresses the importance of chemistry, but Bracken said the team this year makes that easier for Hennessey to accomplish.
Another aspect that is refreshing with this new coach, Boynton explained, “We always know what’s happening next. She has everything written out, so we have all of our workouts planned.”
Boynton also described the coach as “awesome, amazing and organized.” She also said that this year feels more positive than last year.
Commitment and “buy-in” are huge components of a program, and Bracken said, “Everyone on the team has been really focused and dedicated to softball since we started.”
She explained that pitchers have gotten better, which in turn helps the hitters because they practice throwing live to the hitters. She also stated another positive, “We do drills, we run, we challenge each other in the different aspects of the game both physically and mentally.”
In addition, Hennessey said that the dedication and commitment of the team has met the standards that she had left for the team, which, “Couldn’t possibly [have] made me happier.” Another aspect of commitment comes off the field as well. Boynton said, “We do community service as a team, like we chaperoned a middle school dance. Off the field stuff is really helping us on the field.” She explained this group as being very tight-knit, so doing these types of activities will only help the team’s chemistry.
Each year comes with changes in the team dynamic in some way, Bracken explained, “We have gained and lost some players from the end of last season until the start of this season which has been the biggest change for all of us, good and bad. We have a lot more competition for starting positions given the talent brought in this year, which I think is great. Our goals as a team have remained the same and that is to stick by one another and take home another championship.”
To add to this point, with the addition of the seven first-year players, Boynton said, “Everyone is going to have work really hard to keep their position because they’re really good.” According to Bracken, the team leaves for Florida on March 14 for a week and a half where they will play 12 games total. She explained, “Two of those games are against top ranked teams in the United States, which we are excited about.”
Jeff Lunn can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org