Softball season is around the corner at Sonoma State University and the Seawolves have one thing on their minds; championship.
“Our plan is to not only repeat the successful season we had last year,” said senior Aubrie Tolliver, “but to build on it; starting with a CCAA championship.”
Tolliver and the Sonoma State softball team is scheduled to start their 2016 season this weekend coming off last year’s run at the NCAA Division II West Super Regional and a 42-21 record.
The team was voted the preseason favorite by the CCAA coaches, projecting to finish first in the California Collegiate Athletic Association for the first time in the program’s history.
The Seawolves will now be moving away from the “underdog” tag and look to gain the title of top dog.
“The start of this season feels absolutely different from my previous seasons,” said Tolliver, a catcher for the Seawolves, “I feel like in the past we have always played like the underdogs beginning our season but this year we get to start on top and that’s a great feeling to have.”
The Seawolves are confident they can back up their preseason ranking.
“Being ranked first is very exciting. We have always been the underdogs proving ourselves. The pressure is on, yes, but as long as we focus on one game at a time we will go all the way. This is our chance to prove ourselves,” said senior third baseman Olivia Lucchese
The Seawolves’ top hitters, Ancia Purdy and Keeley Ray, who both hit over .400 last season, graduated last spring, but Tolliver and Lucchese are positive the team has the abilities to be successful without the centers of their offensive powerhouse.
“Ancia and Keeley definitely set the tone last year and made such a big impact on our team,” said Tolliver, “but we had such great depth in our lineup last year that I am confident that we have players that will be able to pick up where they left off and even some freshmen that can get the job done.”
The Seawolves will miss Purdy and Ray, but hope to build on the legacy they left behind.
“It definitely has helped a lot of us step up in their place,” said Lucchese. “I think knowing they won’t be with us encourages us all to contribute in any way that we can.”
The Seawolves are returning a talented crop of eight seniors in 2016. Including two time CCAA most valuable pitcher Amanda Llerena who led the conference in strikeouts with 244 and sported an impressive 2.29 career earned run average.
The Seawolves will also bring back two key hitters from last season, Senior Taylor Batey who jacked seven home runs last season and Senior Jena Kaser who had a .358 batting average in 2015.
“This year we brought in a lot of talent. We have strengths in all aspects. I think that’s what makes us so successful. We have power hitters, along with speed. We have great pitching along with strong defense. This is what makes us so intimidating to face and what brings us the confidence to succeed,” said Lucchese.
The team is headed to Las Vegas to open their season at the MSUB Desert Stinger on Feb. 5 against California Baptist.
“Last year we set the record for the most home run hits with 16,” said Tolliver, “and we definitely want to start the season off strong and match or even beat that number. Since we are ranked to finish so high it is important to start the season off with a bang and let everyone know who we are.”
The Seawolves will now look to shift their focus away from the success of last season and create some history of their own.
“After having such a great season last year, this year we are hoping to make it past super regionals for the first time in school history,” Lucchese said. “We expect to go even further than last season, it’s just a matter of focusing on one game at a time.”
After the tournament, the Seawolves are scheduled to start conference play on their home turf against Chico State Friday, Feb. 12. The first game of the double header is at 12 p.m. at the Seawolf Softball Field.