St. Joseph by the Sea softball coach Mike Ponsiglione continues to pencil in a tough schedule for his team.
It gives Ponsiglione a chance to see how his team responds in scrimmages or non-league games against PSAL contenders Wagner or top New Jersey squads St. John Vianney and Paramus.
The Vikings are a team in transition after losing a host of players from the 2010 CHSAA state championship squad.
“It’s a different dynamic, definitely. We have enough returning players that it’s not a big transition,” Ponsiglione said. “We’re young. We have four sophomores starting. Being able to blend them in with the veteran players is why, by design, we had a lot of scrimmages early to get them playing with each other.”
But the Vikings coach is not about to label this season a rebuilding one. They should be in the mix to contend in the CHSAA Staten Island division with a strong core of pitchers, and a number of players coming up from the junior varsity level.
The strength of the Vikings is their pitching staff. Senior hurler Alexa Tedeschi and juniors Lianna Jordan and Jackie Cautela are experienced and will share time on the mound. Tedeschi says her teammates are comfortable with their roles, and have known each other since playing on travel ball together before heading to St. Joseph by the Sea.
“I think it’s good that we all know each other since we all played travel ball,” she said. “We all know our roles.” Tedeschi said.
Cautela, a junior pitcher who will also play shortstop, knows the Vikings are a different team than last season. They will have to win by relying on pitching and solid defense.
“It’s a different type of team. We had more power, big bats, we’re very short team this year,” Cautela said. “We got a lot of speed and we got to work the small game a little more. We got a lot of contact hitters so we go to put the ball in play.”
Despite losing to St. John Villa in the semifinals a year ago, Jordan says the team is just focusing on this year and not on any past defeats.
“That’s in the past. It’s a whole different team,” Jordan said. “We got a lot of new players so we don’t look at it like that.”
Jordan moves over to second base and Cautela starts at shortstop after being a designated player for most of last season. They will also provide experience and some punch at the top of the batting order.
New starters include sophomore catcher Vanessa Jioia, who has displayed a strong arm so far. Stephanie Abolt will start at first base. Senior centerfielder Christina Tufano returns from an ACL injury and Alexandra Prescia and Kristy Colangelo will each patrol the corner outfield spots.
Alannah Dawson, a junior third baseman and solid defender, could be a key hitter in the middle of the batting order. Ponsiglione praised Dawson as a player who is wise beyond her years, understands the game and leads by example.
The Vikings coach has been pleased so far with the effort his team showed in a 10-0 win over Notre Dame Academy Friday. But there is still time and room to keep improving.
“We made a lot of changes and we need time to get them on the same page,” Ponsiglione said. “It’s going to be a process but we’re going to get better as the season goes along.”