Villanova Softball Ready to Embark on 2018 Campaign



Villanova Softball Ready to Embark on 2018 Campaign

Gabriel Calvo

Villanova softball is anticipating an exciting season this year for reasons both on and off the field. On the field, the Wildcats are returning 15 players after finishing one game short of the BIG EAST Conference Championship last year. Perhaps more significantly, the Wildcats will be motivated by the fact that it is the last season for their longtime head coach Maria DiBernardi. 

Entering her 34th season, DiBernardi is the most successful coach in Villanova softball history with a career record of 853-734-10. She places 40th all time among D-I softball coaches in wins and 23rd among active NCAA coaches. Her tenure has been particularly notable for her commitment to her players. Under her leadership, Villanova softball has produced 303 BIG EAST Academic All-Stars and 77 players named to an All-BIG EAST team. The high standards she has set for her players as both athletes and students has given the Wildcats a fierce motivation entering their 2018 season.

“For me and the other seniors, we feel so honored to go out with her, [Head Coach DiBernardi]” Nikki Alden said, a senior captain on the team and last year’s team leader in batting average, home runs, and RBIs. “This season is going to be definitely dedicated to her, and we’re going to work our butts off and make sure she goes out with honor and grace.” 

As if this emotionally-charged catalyst was not enough, the Wildcats are coming off a season that saw them fall one game short of the BIG EAST conference championship game. In the tournament semifinal last year, DePauls pitcher, Missy Zoch, threw a complete game shutout, holding the Wildcats to two hits in a 4-0 DePaul win. 

This year, the Wildcat roster features a wealth of experience, which should contribute to their run for the BIG EAST title this year. With six returning starters, four seniors and a graduate student infielder, Natalia Segovia, the Wildcats have a team brimming with experience and leadership. 

Villanova will be particularly strong on offense, as the roster includes four position players with batting averages above .300 last season—Alden, senior Brittany Husk, junior Lauren Hanna and sophomore Megan Ruiz. These offensive standouts will look to surpass their past productivity this year.

Pitching this season will be more of a question mark for the Wildcats as they look to fill the hole left by last year’s BIG EAST Pitcher of the Year, Brette Lawrence. Lawrence, whose season last year featured a 2.79 ERA and a perfect game against St. John’s, passes the torch to a younger pitching staff. Among them is sophomore Caitlyn Dickman, who had the most innings pitched last season among returning pitchers.

“I think each and every one of those returning pitchers are chomping at the bit to jump into Brette’s shoes this year,” Coach DiBernardi said. “Somebody wants to take the lead on that, we just don’t know who it’s going to be right now.” 

Standing in the way of the Wildcats this year are BIG EAST heavyweights DePaul and St. John’s who, between them, have won three of the last four conference titles. In spite of this, the Wildcats were 5-1 against these two teams in the regular season last year. 

“I’m preparing like I would any of the other 33 years that I coached here at Villanova,” Coach Dibernardi said, when asked about what the team’s approach will be this year. 

The ‘Cats first game will take place Friday, Feb. 23, as a part of the Madeira Beach Invitational against Marist College. 

With a clear commitment to both remaining focused and to winning for Coach DiBernardi, things bode well for the Wildcats as they attempt to complete another successful season.