In just the first year of Division III eligibility, the Geneva College softball team captured the Presidents’ Athletic Conference title. One year later, the Golden Tornadoes will be walking around on opponents’ campus’ with a bulls-eye on their back. While winning the conference title in the first year of full membership in the PAC is an impressive achievement, the 2013 season is one that starts from scratch and those previous achievements mean next to nothing as the new season opens.
Perhaps the biggest reason Geneva won a title in 2012 was the work of senior pitcher Julie DiLonardo. DiLonardo graduated last spring as Geneva’s all-time leader in wins, strikeouts and earned run average. Finishing 2012 in the top five in strikeouts and wins in Division III, DiLonardo left quite a legacy and quite a large pair of cleats to replace. “What Julie accomplished in her career and more specifically in 2012 may never be duplicated,” says head coach Van Zanic. “She put our program on her back and we all just went along for the ride. We have some unanswered questions inside the circle heading into a new season but we are cautiously optimistic that we will have some positive answers moving forward.” In addition to the return of sophomore Andrea Hinds, Geneva will look to All-Conference shortstop Ashley Davis to provide some stability on the pitching staff. Additionally, newcomer Samantha Johnson will have to step right into the mix in 2013. “We don’t have a whole lot of experience on our pitching staff but we do have talent. Hopefully, we can get some good results early in the season and gain some confidence as we head into conference play.”
Geneva managed just one hit in the PAC title winning game against Thiel. That one hit proved to be enough in a 1-0 victory but the hope is that 2013 will bring a whole lot more punch throughout the line-up. “We have a lot of options throughout our line-up,” says Zanic. “If we are not more effective offensively this season I would be very surprised.” In addition to the return of top upperclassmen like Ashley Davis, Christina Fuqua, Lori Deem, Mackenzie Kemerer, Brittany Clark and Michelle Barr, the Golden Tornadoes will welcome several new faces that could prove to be impact players. “We feel as though we have a solid returning group of players that experienced a lot of success last year. That success can only breed confidence moving forward.”
Joining the program in 2013 is a solid group of freshmen that will be thrown directly into the fire. “It’s always a little scary to rely so much on freshmen players but my hope is that this will be a special group that can step in and handle the pressure of collegiate softball.”
The Golden Tornadoes finished the 2012 season with an overall record of 30-19 including a perfect 3-0 mark in the PAC tournament. Geneva finished its season with its first ever trip to the NCAA regional tournament. “We had some great success last year but we also left some goals unachieved,” says Zanic. “We didn’t play very well on the national stage last year and would love to have the opportunity to get back and win some games. In order to get that chance, we have a lot of work to do throughout the next few months. I like the mix of players that we have right now but we are still not sure if that equates into a championship team.” Only time will tell for Zanic and the Golden Tornadoes if they will be able to duplicate the magical season that was 2012. With another challenging schedule ahead and an enthusiastic group of defending champions, Geneva College may just get that chance to perform yet again on the national stage.
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