By Leo Hainline ’22
This week marks the beginning of the Providence College softball season as the Friars head down to Texas to square off against Houston Baptist University, Sam Houston State University, and George Mason University. PC softball is on the rise after Coach Jill Karwoski took over the program last year, finishing the season with a 30-22 record—a great improvement from the team’s 13-32 performance in 2018—and the most wins for the Friars since 2005. Despite some key members graduating, namely Emma Lee ’19 who made the Big East Second Team last season with a .411 batting average, excitement is brewing around the current squad.
Coach Karwoski has unified the program through a team-first philosophy that the players have embraced. When asking Skie Villani ’22 (who this weekend will be playing close to her hometown of Sugar Land, TX) about the strengths of the team, she emphasized that the true strengths do not lie in an individual player or position but within the values that they hold as a program. “Our strengths come from our core values—attitude and gratitude, open-heart open-mind, and respect and commitment,” she stated. “To be successful we know we’ll have to work as a team.”
Coach Karwoski also highlighted the importance of making the most of the Friars’ opportunities on offense and minimizing mistakes in order to reach their potential: “I think so much of it is taking advantage of opportunities you know when we have runners in scoring positions… what hurts a lot of teams sometimes is when you leave a lot of runners on base—Coach Bree has been doing a fantastic job with our offense and utilizing some of our strengths so and doing that—taking advantage of those base runners and on defense minimizing our errors—we want to make sure we’re having quick innings and not letting things snowball or get out of control.”
The Friars have six seniors on the roster, including Mackensie Compton ’20 who holds the highest batting average of all returning players from last season. Along with the seniors, there are also plenty of talented underclassmen on the roster. Daniela Alvarez ’22 is another name to watch out for. As a freshman, she held an 18-8 record with a 2.25 ERA. She had more wins than any other pitcher on the 2019 roster and it appears she could be a dominant force for PC softball this season and in the years to come.
After their opening games in Texas, the Friars will head down to Maderia Beach, FL for an array of five out-of-conference games that include matchups against Colombia University, Stony Brook University, and Merrimack College. They then return to Clearwater for the Clearwater Spring Break Invitational in early March, where the Friars will play twelve games in a span of five days. On Wednesday, March 18, PC softball will have its first home game at Glay Field versus Bryant (the Friars went 11-2 at home last season) and will open Big East play that Friday in Friartown against St. John’s University, who won the Big East regular season in 2019.
Anticipate a lot of excitement from the Big East this year. From top to bottom the teams are going to be competitive and will make for some great softball. In response to what games she was looking forward to, Coach Karwoski responded, “I think every single Big East game I’m looking forward to. Last year was our first year in the Big East in terms of our coaching staff and we just really enjoyed the competitiveness of it, and you know, every team equally matched up and each game was a lot of fun.”
PC softball also has the motivation to prove the doubters wrong—they were ranked 6th out of 8 teams in the Big East Preseason Coaches’ Poll. For a team that finished third in the conference in 2019 and has retained more than a serviceable amount of talent, the Friars will be looking to prove that last year’s success was not a fluke. However, Coach Karwoski hesitated to make much of the preseason polls
She said, “Last year I think we were picked eighth and I think we ended up finishing third— that’s just what it is, it’s a preseason poll and I think every year we get underestimated and until we start having consecutively good years in the top four of the conference, you know, right now I’m sure they’ll look at last year maybe as a fluke or maybe as a one-time thing so now it’s up to us to prove that we can consistently compete for a Big East Championship.”
Reigning Big East tournament champion DePaul University looks to be Providence’s biggest competition this season. Not only did they make the NCAA tournament last year but they were the team that knocked the Friars out of the Big East tournament. Although PC softball likes to focus on the season by going one game at a time, their series at home versus Depaul at the end of their regular season on May 1-3 are games that both players and fans should be marking on their calendars.