By Kristie Kahl
Rider’s softball team is ready to gear up and hit the field as the beginning of its season starts tomorrow.
The Broncs return with a vengeance from their losing season last year, going 11-36 overall and 5-11 in the MAAC.
“I think that last season needs to be put totally behind us,” senior outfielder Mandi Sekly said. “It was a tough one and we should just leave last season in last season.”
At the end of last year, Rider lost only two seniors, returning 11 of the team’s 15 players. The team now includes five rookies to help fill the roster with the other four sophomores, three juniors and four seniors.
“We have a lot of depth this year,” Sekly said. “I feel like we could have about four different starting lineups and still compete and win with them all.”
The Broncs are led by seniors Tiffany Day-Neutill, Aimee Schiller, Jessica Holland and Sekly.
“As a senior, I have tried to do my best to guide the younger girls in the right direction,” Sekly said. “I bust my butt in the weight room, on the track, in the gym and on the field, and hope that the rest of the team will follow suit.”
Rider concluded its previous season with two wins in a double-header against Iona. The team knocked Iona out of contention for the final playoff berth, giving Marist its post-season spot. The team hopes to carry on some of that success to make itself one of the top competitors in the conference this year.
“I think we are a great contender for MAAC Champs and conference title winners,” Sekly said. “It is always anyone’s game in our conference and with the preparation we have done this year, I don’t feel as if we can lose. I have absolute confidence in the team as a whole and in my teammates individually.”
In preseason polls, the Broncs were picked for ninth place, but Day-Neutill found herself a spot on the preseason All-MAAC team. Last season, Day-Neutill led the conference in hitting with a .427 average. She had 61 hits in 47 games with 24 RBI’s and 19 runs scored. Day-Neutill enters her senior year with 154 hits, making her the 16th highest at Rider.
The Broncs will try to find success under the leadership of Head Coach Tricia Carroll in her 13th season at Rider. The players have themselves in tip top shape, and now all they need is the right mentality.
“We have been working a lot on our mental game for this season,” Sekly said. “A strong mental team makes a strong team physically on the field.”
The Broncs will open their season this weekend at the Hokies United Memorial Tournament at Virginia Tech, playing Villanova tomorrow.
Rider’s calendar will move on to play a double-header against St. John’s to begin the team’s home game schedule. On April 12, Rider will face off against Siena at home to commence their MAAC schedule for the season.
“Be prepared for a great season because after last year we may be the underdogs, but I think we are going to surprise a lot of people,” Sekly said.