Softball Takes Advantage of Fall Ball Opportunities


Courtesy of Villanova Athletics

Villanova hosted St. Joe’s, Lehigh and Princeton last weekend.

Aphrodite Dimopoulos, Staff Writer

As the fall season comes to a close, Villanova softball played a triad of games at home this past weekend. The Wildcats went 1-1-1 on the weekend, beating St. Joseph’s and losing to Lehigh on Saturday, and tying their game against Princeton on Sunday. Reflecting back on the past few weeks of non-conference play, head coach Bridget Orchard believes that the team has accomplished the most out of the out-of-season play. This includes increased team camaraderie, a focus on developing new talent and overall flow of team dynamic. 

In the first game of two on Saturday, the Wildcats played extremely well. Coming off of its success from last weekend in which it beat both Army and St. Peter’s on the road, the team kept up its momentum and beat St. Joe’s in a resounding 7-1 triumph. Notably, sophomore pitcher Kelsey White hit a grand slam in the first inning that set Villanova apart from the competition. This immediate 4-0 lead created a spread that St. Joe’s could not catch up to.

This momentum did not carry throughout the entirety of Saturday. The Wildcat’s matchup against Lehigh resulted in a 13-2 loss. In the words of Orchard, 

“Anything that could have gone wrong went wrong,” Orchard said. 

The team went through five pitchers and played 22 players. That said, Orchard believes that it is games like this that make the fall season so important.

“Just some growing pains and learning mistakes, but overall I think it was a really good day for us,” she said. “We won one, lost one, but we got a lot of people playing time and a lot of people got their at bats. We made a lot of mistakes but this will help us eventually grow.”

Behind all sports are two critical aspects: the physical and the mental. Obviously, playing at the Division I level forces all competitors to be in great shape physically to perform. However, of equal importance is the mental component. Orchard believes that resilience and the ability to “pick oneself up” is a critical mental component towards success. 

“It sucks losing, but now the girls get it and know they never want to feel like that again,” Orchard said. “I was impressed by their ability to rally going into Sunday, and that mental component is what excites me about this team.”

 And rally they did. The Wildcats entered their matchup against Princeton and saw problems early on. In the second inning, the team was already behind 7-0, a deficit that seemed almost impossible to overcome. Then, the team’s resilience kicked into high gear. In the next two innings, the Wildcats managed to score eight runs and tie up the game at eight by the fourth inning. Due to inclement weather, the game was called at this point, and the team left with a tie under its belt. While it wasn’t a numerical win, the mental strength of the team allowed it to close out the weekend on a positive note. 

Looking forward, Orchard feels good about the last game of the fall season that will be played next weekend against East Stroudsburg.

“I feel the girls are ready to grind and get back into it,” she said. “There is a lot of traveling so it’s nice to be home. It will be one 10 inning game, which will get everyone live at bats, umpires calling and ample playing time. East Stroudsburg is a Division II team but a well-run program so the game should be great.”

Out-of-season play is a crucial part of getting a team ready to perform to the best of its ability. While the time spent on the field and in the gym is a major component, this team has a unique approach due to its youth. Having just graduated many of its starters, Villanova softball is looking towards a season of new players taking control. This can often be a cause for concern, but Orchard is excited for what is to come. 

When asked about what in the fall season has benefitted her team the most, Orchard sees camaraderie and relational skills as a primary component.

“Getting to know each other has been such an important part.” she said. “Especially as coaches, we need to learn each player; What makes them tick? Do they need to be yelled at? Encouraged? Who is healthy? Who has a sore body? As a coach I am getting to know what the girls need to be at their best.

“On top of that, we have been learning who can perform and who can’t in pressure situations. We are just learning everyone’s mental game and their strengths and weaknesses. All of them are different and I can see it in the dugout how they react, especially after a mistake. I think the upperclassmen are starting to understand that with the freshmen too. The freshmen still aren’t comfortable yet, but it is still so early. They are getting ready and more used to playing the game at this level and each other.”

Looking ahead to the spring, it will be interesting to see these new Wildcats and what is to come of the two-time defending Big East Champions.