By Anthony Bosco
The Mary Louis Academy girls’ varsity softball team ran through the league schedule in 2002 en route to the Brooklyn/Queens Diocesan championship but finished as runners-up to Moore Catholic in the city.
This year head coach Steve Contino and the Hilltoppers again have their eyes set on the coveted CHSAA crown, starting the season with a 6-1-1 record, including a perfect 5-0 run in league play to kick off the 2003 campaign.
“It might be one of my best teams ever,” Contino said. “I have very good athletes on this team and also very good softball players. We definitely have the ability to get back there, without a doubt. I think we got a pretty good shot.”
Leading the returning players is star pitcher Stephanie Gozdziewski, the 2002 TimesLedger Player of the Year. Gozdziewski may be the best pitcher in the city, but she won’t be alone in leading Mary Louis back in the hunt for the city title.
Returning seniors include first baseman Jen Flynn, third baseman Erin Breen, centerfielder Carol-Jean Kavanaugh and catcher Liz Strein. Junior Lorina Lana is also back as the team’s designated hitter.
Contino also expects big things out of sophomore shortstop Nicole Losito, whom the coach called “the future.” Another sophomore up from the city-title-winning junior varsity team is Tonianne Campuzano, who will fill the team’s hole at second base.
Already the favorite in the league, Mary Louis has opened the season with wins over St. Francis Prep, Archbishop Molloy, Stella Maris, Christ the King and a walkover win over St. John’s Prep, which is not fielding a team this season.
St. Francis Prep is 2-1 on the new season, dropping its lone game to the Hilltoppers when Strein tripled in the seventh inning to break up a potential shutout by Terriers’ ace Kristen McEvitt. Still, head coach Ann Marie Rich is optimistic her team can overtake Mary Louis.
McEvitt is one key reason the Terriers should be improved. McEvitt, the team’s ace in her sophomore season, did not pitch at all last year due to injury and only saw limited duty by season’s end.
“She’s back to her old self,” Rich said. “She has her assortment of pitches, her hitting is as good as it ever was and her fielding at second is great. She puts a lot of pressure on herself. She doesn’t think she’s as good as she is, but we think otherwise. Other teams think otherwise.”
Joining McEvitt are returning players Marissa Evangelista (1B), Alicia Syrok (P/SS) and Michelle Gutierrez (3B/OF), all of whom should be major contributors this season. Juniors Megan Harms and Larissa Pavlovic will also help the team, Rich said.
“As long as everybody stays healthy I think we’ll be OK,” the coach said.
Under coach Maureen Rosenbaum, Archbishop Molloy finished second behind Mary Louis last year in the Queens standings, and it did so without a senior on the squad.
The team started this season with a 3-5 record, but four of those losses came at an out-of-state tournament in Virginia, with the lone local loss to Mary Louis.
Starting pitcher Christina DelMaestro is back, as is second baseman Jaclyn Pizzo, shortstop Nicole Siegel and third baseman Suzanne Hurley. New to the team are sophomore centerfielder Mary Braunstein, freshmen Lauren McCabe (1B/OF) and Kerri McLean (INF) and pitcher Michelle Viani.
“I think we’re off to a good start,” Rosenbaum said. “We should be competitive again. We’ve been competitive with some good teams, but we’re still making some mistakes we shouldn’t be making. I hope we can pull it together. I would say that we can compete with the best.”
Christ the King was the surprise team in the league a season ago, even upsetting the mighty St. Francis Prep Terriers. But head coach Alveena Yurick left her post less than a month ago, leaving the reins in the hands of Frank Florio.
Florio, whose daughter Tracy is the team’s ace, has coaches at the Yorkville Little League in Manhattan and said he has watched the CK team closely since his daughter joined the varsity last season.
“I followed the team last year, so I had a pretty good idea of their abilities,” Florio said.
The team will be led by Angel Livreri (1B/CF), Natalie Sepulveda (LF), Nicole Fracipane (P/RF) and sisters Cassie and Cindy Carmissione, who will play second base and catcher, respectively.
A lot will also depend on Tracy Florio, who one-hit Molloy, two-hit Stella Maris and three-hit Prep last season while still only a sophomore.
New players include third baseman Paula Manna, first baseman Bridget Woebbe and first baseman Beth Disanzo.
“I feel we just were tested,” Florio said of his team’s 0-4 start in the league. “We had a tough week, but I think we may surprise some teams over the second half of the season.”
St. Agnes has a new coach in Keri-Ann Wade, the school’s basketball coach of the past two seasons. With no seniors on the team, Agnes will face an uphill battle, but Wade seems up for the challenge.
“I think they’re working really hard,” Wade said of her team. “I’m just concerned that they have a good work ethic and are committed to playing softball for four years. Once we get our pitching going then we’ll be very competitive.”
Captain Stephanie Worko leads the returning players and will play first base when she is not pitching. Worko is also the team’s clean-up hitter.
Danielle Kaufman will also pitch and platoon with Worko at first.
With St. John’s Prep not fielding a team, Stella Maris and coach Alyson Walsh round out the division.
Reach Sports Editor Anthony Bosco by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 130.