Coming into the 2016 season, the Keene State College softball team’s Head Coach Carrah Fisk-Hennessey emphasized a new team mantra for her team to play by.
“Treat each team achievement as if it were your own,” Fisk-Hennessey said.
With a slimmer roster of 16 players this season, the Owls look to improve on their 16-19 overall record from just a year ago with a conference record of 8-6. In preparation for this season, Fisk-Hennessey said her team has been taking “160 at-bats a day,” and has been working on becoming more consistent as a unit.
After the team has spent an entire offseason working with Strength and Conditioning Coach Sarah Testo, Fisk-Hennessey said she is excited about this season and is optimistic about younger players accepting a larger role on the team.
Fisk-Hennessey said her squad has a strong group of sophomores and a group of first-years that are “going to surprise some people.”
The Owls come into this season with ten underclassmen, the majority of them being first-years
As a player, Fisk-Hennessey set the single season record at Keene State for home runs (16), RBI’s (41) and was a member of the 1999 Keene State softball team that set the record for wins in a season (33-10). The team went on to win the program’s first Little East Conference Championship.
When asked what made her current team unique from other teams she has played on and coached, Fisk-Hennessey said, “The amount of well-rounded players” on her team and that the team has a lot of players “who can play multiple positions.”
The Owls currently have 11 players listed at more than one position.
Fisk-Hennessey has emphasized a positive team attitude to unite the squad during the off-season and elaborated on their new mantra.
“If a pitcher throws a no-hitter, I want the whole pitching staff to celebrate that achievement as if it were their own,” Fisk-Hennessey said.
Team Captains senior Steph Long and junior Kayla Votto said they support they have been spreading that united mentality throughout the entire team.
Long said, “The people on the bench have just as much of an impact as the people on the field.”
She added that the mental focus for the team this offseason has been “less individual and more team.”
Votto, who plays shortstop and second base, said she has not only been more team conscious, but has used her positive attitude to improve her skills individually.
Votto said, “I’ve been trying to hit the outside pitch.”
She added that through staying positive and focusing on repetitions and muscle memory in the batting cage she can “see a difference.”
“Once that understanding is met the chemistry will definitely grow and we’ll be a much stronger team,” Votto said referring to the team’s supportive attitude toward each other.
Last season the Owls did not have captains, but this season both Long and Votto have earned the honors.
After receiving the honor, Long said she and Votto both took it as a sign that they need to “step up.”
“She’s [Coach Fisk-Hennessey] expecting us to step up and be leaders,” Long said, “It’s our job to keep that positive energy when things are not going well and if we’re going to be in those leadership roles, we have to be ready to respond positively.”
With new leadership and smaller numbers the Owls believe they can overcome the challenges of the season. Long and Votto both said last season the team felt lost without delegated leadership roles and didn’t know who to lean on in high pressure situations.
This season, as the Owls prepare for teams such as competitive rivals Eastern Connecticut and Western Connecticut, the Owls believe their smaller numbers has helped them build stronger chemistry, which they will need to succeed.
“I think people really are underestimating us,” Votto said.
Long added, “We can’t expect them [LEC opponents] not to show up this year.”
The Owls will open the season on the road against Salem on Friday, March 4, at 3 p.m.
Nick Tocco can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org