Buffalo, NY – Coming off of back-to-back regular season AMCC titles and appearances in the AMCC championship game, the D'Youville softball team has set the bar high for themselves and the rest of the conference as they continue to be a team to beat.
The team has been guided by the reigning two-time AMCC Coach of the Year, Ona Halladay. After losing a record setting senior class last year, coach Halladay has welcomed in a youthful and talented roster that will look to set a new standard that separates D'Youville in a competitive conference.
"We have great leadership in our returners this year followed by a group of freshman who have raw talent and the desire to perform at a high level," said Halladay. "This equation is a great one and I believe one that will breed success for this program in a strong Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Confernece."
Despite having a young roster, the team has very strong senior leadership on the stat sheet, in the dugout and on the field.
Hannah Turek (Depew, NY/Lancaster) is the offensive leader for the Spartans, but will be one of top arms for the women this season. In 2016, Hannah pitched, played third base and right field as she showcased her various talents. At the top of the stat-sheet for the D'Youville, she led the team in hits (45), was second on team in batting average (.349) and RBI (27), was third in doubles (10), tied for third in runs (20) and hit one home run.
Seniors Sarah Marino (Buffalo, NY/Holy Angles Academy) and Ashley Colan (Grand Island, NY/Grand Island) each offer plenty in the form of leadership and accountability. Marino missed much of the 2016 due to a broken leg, but came back for the playoffs and helped push the team to the championship game appearance. Her importance on the field with her glove and demeanor is pivotal and her personality helps keep the team moving in the right direction.
As the catcher of the reigning three-time AMCC Pitcher of the Year in her first three seasons as a Spartan, Colan brings plenty of knowledge and experience to the team. However due to a traumatic injury this offseason, Ashley's role will become bigger in the dugout this season. Despite her absence on the field, Colan has the personality and determination that a young roster will look up to and learn an abundance from.
D'Youville had several players break out last season and help fill a deep lineup. Of those, junior Lauren Gawlak (Hamburg, NY/Frontier) was one of the biggest. Starting in right field all of 2016, Gawlak will move to first base in 2017. Her versatility in the field will be an addition to her bat, which came to life given the opportunity last year. Lauren ended the season tied for fourth on team in home runs (2), fifth in batting average (.323) and collected 30 hits, 18 runs, and nine walks in 93 at-bats.
Looking to improve off a strong freshman campaign is infielder Darian Evans (Brant, NY/lake Shore). Evans offered a lot of power, finishing the season with three home runs and 20 RBI, adding eight doubles. This season she moves from one middle infield spot to another, going to short from second.
Fellow sophomores Victoria Purucker (North Tonawanda, NY/Starpoint) and Sierra Belkota (North Tonawanda, NY/Starpoint) will bring different skills to the team this season. Purucker with her hitting and play behind the plate, and Belkota with her spend and glove work.
The team has additional veterans in senior Laura Wilkinson (Tonawanda, NY/Kenmore East) and junior Krista Cornell (North Tonawanda, NY/Kenmore East) that add depth to the team. Rachele Anello (Buffalo, NY/Charter) is a sophomore that brings a year of experience back to the team.
Of the freshmen class, the team has its largest in recent memory with eight in total. Alexis Dymond (Kenmore, NY/Kenmore West) will be one of the top options at pitcher and also play outfield. Cameron Colan (Grand Island, NY/Grand Island) will slot into the infield, while Ashley Carney (Clarence, NY/Clarence) can play outfield and catch. Maddie Jacobs (Lake View, NY/Frontier) will compete for a spot in the outfield.
Freshmen Rylie Russo (Hamburg, NY/Frontier), Therese Losardo (Lancaster, NY/Lancaster), Kayla Jackson (Salamanca, NY/Salamanca) and Megan Meyer (Cheektowaga, NY/Maryvale) will bring needed depth to the infield and outfield. The surplus of talent will help bolster the team this season and moving into the future.
Coach Halladay can see something unique in her young team and thinks that they can achieve a high level of success in 2017.
"The energy and determination that this team has is inspiring," said Halladay. "I am excited to see where those qualities can take them."
The women open up their season in Florida as they make the trip to Clermont for their first 10 games of the season. They begin on Saturday, March 18 against Lawrence at 11:30am, following with a game against Southern Maine at 4:30pm.