Syracuse softball kicks into gear this weekend

The Syracuse softball team starts off it's season this weekend at the Georgia State Tournament. SU will also face Tennessee Tech and Morehead State during the two-day event.

The 2011 Syracuse University Women’s Softball team hopes that its impressive run at the end of last season will carry over to the beginning of this season, as all nine starters return. Hopes and expectations are extremely high for this veteran team, from the players themselves, fifth-year head coach Leigh Ross, and ESPN, who gave the Orange their first preseason votes for the Top 25 poll in six years.

The Orange finished last season with a 32-26 record, putting them as a five-seed in the Big East tournament. The team reached the first NCAA tournament in program history along with winning its very first Big East title in an excitingly close game to Louisville. Though the season ended with a disappointing loss to Maryland in the NCAA regional round, the team was justifiably proud of the strides it made and the accomplishments it garnered.

“I think we are excited to prove to people that the end of last year wasn’t a fluke,” said SU head coach Leigh Ross, who has won at least 20 games with the team in all four of her seasons as coach.

Before her tenure with Syracuse, Ross spent 20 years at Bowling Green State University, proving that experience is beneficial and does indeed win championships.

Along with its coach, the team is also a very experienced unit. Not only do the Orange have a Big East title under their belts, they also have three returning seniors, and plenty of impressive juniors and sophomores to go along with some promising new faces.

Freshman Jasmine Watson and Shirley Daniels are just a couple of athletes that Ross said have a lot of potential. The team has high hopes that both girls are capable of being power hitters and putting up good numbers alongside the current star players.

Another exciting player is junior starting pitcher Jenna Caira. Described by Ross as “able to compete with anyone”, Caira has pitched for the Canadian National Team for the past two summers. In the 2010 season she had an outstanding record of 19-12 over nearly 200 innings of work. She also claimed the first Big East Most Valuable Player Award and Rookie of the Year honors in school history.

Lisaira Daniels is another impressive member of the class of 2012. Daniels, a junior from Tampa, started every game in the outfield for the Orange and lead the team with a .370 batting average. Her speed, base stealing, and run-scoring potential are all huge assets for the team.

What is most noteworthy about a team with this many talented and competitive athletes is the apparent lack of bickering between the players. The girls all seem to genuinely enjoy spending time together at practices as well as off the field. The players laugh and joke together while having nothing negative to say about each other.

“Camaraderie is better than it’s ever been before,” senior third baseman Hallie Gibbs said. “We all have high expectations for a better record than we’ve ever had.”

Syracuse will started off the season Saturday at the the Georgia State Tournament against Tennessee Tech. The Orange will also face Morehead State and Georgia State during the two-day tournament.  

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