BENNINGTON -- Mount Anthony Union High School softball coach Katie Contrada thought that her Patriots entered last season a little hesitant. As a result, the Patriots dropped their first two games in one-run decisions before rattling off 15 straight and making it to the Division I quarterfinals.
This year, Contrada think her team is going to enter the year with a much better mindset.
"Last year, we came off of a weaker season and I don't know if we had the confidence to believe in ourselves as winners," Contrada said. "For me, what is important is because we were successful last year, kids are coming into the season with confidence."
It also helps that Contrada, in her fifth year at the helm, will welcome back 10 players from last year's 12-girl roster. Keeping with the tradition of having a smaller, more tight-knit team, Contrada only brought up two girls to fill out the roster.
Back on the field will be seniors Kate Goodell and Makayla Farrara, four-year starters that anchor the left side of the infield at shortstop and third base, respectively.
"You want them for as long as you can have them," Contrada said. "They have really grown into their positions. They are phenomenal athletes in general, but they are great softball players."
Contrada will also have a pair of pitchers at her disposal, as junior Baylee Ports and senior Jenna Crowley will both see time in the circle. Ports, Contrada said, has five pitches she can use during a game, while Crowley throws a fastball that Contrada clocks around 60 miles per hour.
"Baylee has five different pitches which keeps batters off guard. Jenna when she is on, she is tough to hit," Contrada said. "I think that having that combination, that 1-2 punch, will be valuable for us as we get later on in the season."
The team also returns another valuable piece in Julie Elwell, who will catch for the pitching duo. Contrada pointed her out as a player that can make a difference for the team that is coming off 3-2 loss to Missisquoi in last year's tournament. The game came after 11-day layoff due to rain last season. Whether the delay caused the then red-hot Patriots to cool off is debatable, but the team is chock-full of girls who were a part of that loss.
On the right side of the infield, junior Keira Goodell returns to anchor first base, while sophomore Kori Bow will hold down second. In the outfield, Cheyanne Guetti and Morgan Hewitt return to provide stability in center field and right field, respectively, while senior Lauren Bow and the two newcomers to the team, junior Emily Hutton and sophomore Lauren Woodcock, will provide depth at left field and off the bench.
At the plate, Contrada said that a final batting order is still up in the air, but in Kate Goodell the Patriots have dynamic option at the top of the order, with the senior recording six doubles and four triples last season, and Farrara should be a shoe-in for the cleanup slot after hitting nine doubles, two triples and a home run with a team-high 18 RBIs last season.
The team opened the season on Tuesday with a 9-3 win against Otter Valley. The Patriots play next on Friday at home against Mill River before going into the break. After the week off, the Patriots will play three-straight on the road, including a pair of games against Berkshire County teams, before returning home against Marble Valley League rival Rutland on April 29. The annual Hoosick Falls game will be at MAU this year on May 5, and the team ends the season on May 29 against defending state champions Brattleboro at MAU.