The Goshen College softball team will kick off its season at the NAIA Leadoff Classic in Roosevelt Illinois this Friday, Jan. 31.  

The team saw a breakthrough season in 2019, finishing with the best record in more than a decade (20-33-1). Julia Clare Plezbert — or “Coach P,” as she is referred to by her team — is back for her second year as head coach with the team looking to build on the trend they started in 2019.  

The softball team is returning many of its top players from last year, including ace pitcher Emily Cummings, a senior, who broke the program record with 73 hits last season; Jessica Bachtell, a sophomore, who was last year’s female rookie of the year; first baseman Sandra Rodriguez, a senior; and catcher Katheryn Boyer, also a senior.  

Last year, the team finished among the top six in conference when the tournament was cut short due to bad weather. Jaelyn Rufenacht, a senior catcher, said the team’s goal this year is to be top three.   

“We also want to have a record over 500,” Rufenacht said. “So we want to finish with more wins than losses.”  

Plezbert knows the only way to reach those goals is through hard work. “We conditioned a lot this year,” Rufenacht said. “We’re in a lot better shape this spring than last spring.”  

Rufenacht hopes that all of the work the team put in during the off season will give them endurance for the long season ahead. Once they start competing on Friday, they won’t get a break until they finish their 52nd game on April 25, and even later if they make the conference tournament.   

Rianna Koteles, a junior catcher, explained that the team isn’t just conditioning their bodies, but their minds as well. “Coach P and Coach Ryan provide us each a notebook that we write in everyday before practice,” she said. The ritual “includes writing out a goal before practice, then reflecting on it after practice. This helps each one of us focus on making small improvements everyday.” 

Looking toward this Friday, Cummings said, “We plan to stay calm and play within ourselves, which means to control what we can control.” Cummings stated that she is excited to see how her teammates will step up in the game setting.  

After their four games in the “Dome” — an indoor stadium in Illinois — this weekend, the Maple Leafs will prepare for a spring break tour which will take them to Arkansas, Texas, and Oklahoma for games. Their first conference play will be a home game against Marion University on March 10.