The Elizabethtown College women’s softball team fell one game short of making the Commonwealth Conference Playoffs last season.
“Last season, we were so close we could taste it, and I think that taste is still fresh going into this season,” junior outfielder Kaylee Werner said. “As a team, we have created goals for this season that I believe will be achieved with each person’s hard work and dedication.”
The Blue Jays (20-18, 8-10 CC) finished in a tie for fifth place with Stevenson University, but the Mustangs earned the final playoff spot by way of a tiebreaker. The 20-win season was Etown’s second straight — a sign of consistency and growth for the program. Head Coach Kathy Staib’s expectations for her squad are straightforward: “Simply to compete each and every day to the best of our ability,” Staib said.
Entering her 11th season as head coach of the Blue Jays, Staib has led the program to four playoff berths in the past seven seasons. Etown finished their season winning eight of their last 12 games, including six wins in a row, putting them in position for that final playoff spot. After losing the core group of that 20-win team to graduation, Staib will look toward each and every player to take responsibility this season.
“Unlike other years, it’s our hope that each of our current roster of players steps up into a leadership role. We don’t place any more or less on any one player,” Staib said. “All are expected to lead in their own way.”
Werner was a big contributor for last year’s squad, hitting for a .359 average and leading the team in home runs (6), RBIs (29) and doubles (9). Werner was the everyday right fielder for Staib, starting all 38 games for the Blue Jays. She was named Commonwealth Conference Player of the Week in April and took home Honorable Mention for the conference at the season’s end.
“As a player, I am always growing, mentally and physically,” Werner said. “My goal is to lead by example and inspire my teammates to work harder and want to be even better than they already are.”
This season will be the Blue Jays first as a member of the Landmark Conference. Etown opens conference play at Juniata College on March 18. The two teams will play a doubleheader with game one starting at 3 p.m. and game two scheduled to start at 5 p.m.
The Blue Jays will maintain some old Commonwealth Conference rivalries with doubleheaders against Lebanon Valley, Messiah, Albright and Lycoming.
“Logistically, it makes sense to continue to play LVC, Messiah and Albright due to their close proximity to our campus. We added York and F&M for the same reason,” Staib said. “Our goal was to help our student-athletes miss less class time by scheduling opponents closer to our campus.” The last two seasons are in the past, but this Blue Jay team will draw motivation from the program’s recent success.
“As far as comparing last season to this season, it is hard to portray what will happen for sure,” Werner said. “However, I can say with the utmost confidence that this team is willing to do whatever it takes to win together. We are a ‘Band of Sisters’ that won’t take no for an answer.” As Werner put it, “Hopes are high and so is our energy. Motivation is not lacking for this Blue Jay Team.”