By Joseph Staszewski
St. Francis Prep doesn’t want to get too far ahead of itself.
The Terriers are back with the nucleus of the team that won the program’s first CHSAA Brooklyn/Queens title since 2008.
The team’s ultimate goal is to be a real challenger for a Catholic state title, but years of previous heartbreaks gives SFP the full perspective on how hard winning can be.
“One step at a time,” Rhode Island-bound catcher Kelly Licul said. “The focus right now is Brooklyn/Queens, to get there, win that and then take it from there.”
Her return to the lineup is one of the big reason’s St. Francis Prep can think about a repeat. Licul is one of the city’s best defensive backstops and an extremely dangerous bat. She hit .426 last year, has plenty of power and provides invaluable vocal leadership.
Licul will again get to catch ace Monica Zhivanaj, who really came into her own during last year’s post season. The junior is consistent and nearly unflappable in the circle. Walks got her into trouble in a 3-1 loss to Bronx power Preston last Saturday, but Zhivanaj limited the damage each time. She is the leader of a group of four players who can all take the ball for the Terriers.
“Last year winning all those games made me feel a little more confident,” Zhivanaj said. “I know we have a good team this year.
Junior shortstop Alyssa Seiss, who is also the team’s No. 2 starter, proves plenty of power as the Terriers’ third hitter. She homered for the team’s lone run against Preston. Leadoff hitter Taylor Russo provided speed both in the outfield and on the bases. Sophomore Rebecca Colak, who will play second base, has provided a consistent bat early. Julie Menna and Anna Prisco return in the outfield and Brianna Baglino goes to third to replace Briana Emmanuele.
This group’s depth and interchangeability is what makes it really go. Coach Ann Marie Rich can move players around the field or bring them in off the bench and feel confident they can get the job done. Senior Samantha Gugliemi, juniors Nia Rivera, Miranda Cintron and Kasey-Anne Brown will also see time.
“This team is just a bunch of athletes,” Licul said. “It’s not just a bunch of stationary softball players.”
St. Francis Prep will finally get to see how it measures up with regular season champion and rival Molloy in two games this week after rain pushed the first meeting back. It will give the Terriers a better sense of how its drive for consecutive crowns will go. It’s why SFP want to concern itself with each benchmark along the way without looking ahead.
“I do everything in baby steps,” Rich said. “I go playoff. Then I’ll go Brooklyn/Queens and then from there. Yes ,the ultimate goal is definitely the state, even the city, but I want that Brooklyn/Queens first.”