By Joseph Staszewski
“Repeat” is not a taboo word around the Archbishop Molloy softball team.
The Stanners aren’t shy about their desire to win consecutive CHSAA state softball titles for the first time in program history, but they understand it won’t be easy, even with a strong returning core.
“We continually talked about the fact that we are state champions and everyone is always out to get us,” senior catcher Victoria Brown said. “But we are keeping the mindset, hungry yet humble.”
Molloy has plenty of reasons to be confident, returning five starters from last year’s team, including the veteran Brown behind the plate. The Stanners lost slugger Alexandra Yule to graduation, but they still have a formidable offensive attack led by first baseman Camille Sears, who hit a whopping .524 with a team-leading 10 home runs and 40 RBI last season.
“I think I have a big job when I step up, especially batting cleanup,” Sears said. “I really hoped to get the job done. I do feel a lot of pressure coming on, but I think I can really help this team out. ”
The Stanners have speed at the top and in the outfield with leadoff hitter and center fielder Jamie Durso and right fielder Giovanna Bonilla. Molloy coach Maureen Rosenbaum is hopeful for a breakout year from shortstop Jessica Hickey. Nicole DeMaria returns at second base and will be a key cog in a versatile order.
“We have a little experience, strength and speed,” Rosenbaum said.
Molloy is also excited to see what outfielder Nicole LeBris can do playing every day. Her teammates expect her early production and power to continue. Stephanie Layden, Molly Rose McMahon and returning Victoria Perillo are also expected to contribute.
“She has some power.” Sears said of LeBris. “When she makes contact, it can go.”
The Stanners know they won’t go anywhere without strong pitching. The team lost Yule and fellow ace Amanda Zeni, who were critical to last year’s title run. Brown’s experience, maturity and ability to call games will be instrumental as the team works to replace them.
Molloy still has plenty of quality arms, starting with DiMaria, who just needs to get some experience. Rosenbaum described her as a smart pitcher with excellent control.
One of the biggest keys to Molloy’s success will be the development of junior windmiller Cierra Word, who was the ace of the junior varsity last season. Sears could also see time in the circle.
“We will see whatever combination works best,” Rosenbaum said.
While there are still details to be worked out and playing time to win, thanks to the Stanners’ deep and versatile roster, there is no questioning the goal.
“We want to go back to back,” Brown said. “We want to get back there again. We are going to earn it every step of the way.”