By Jonah Haskell
The Rams just keep on rolling. With four consecutive conference championships, and five in the last six years, head coach Bridget Orchard’s squad has emerged as a bona fide dynasty in the Atlantic 10. On Wednesday, it was announced that Fordham, which last year went 39-21 (18-4 in conference), was picked to successfully defend their title in the annual preseason coaches’ poll, earning nine of 10 possible first place votes.
“The only poll that matters is one at the end of the season so we don’t really take anything preseason too seriously, but I think the players like and are used to having the target on their backs,” Orchard said.
There are plenty of reasons to believe that the Rams can win their fifth straight A-10 trophy. Junior infielder Lindsay Mayer, reigning A-10 Player of the Year, returns to the line-up, while 2016 A-10 Rookie of the Year Jessica Hughes is back at second base with a full season of experience under her belt. In fact, eight regular starters from last year’s conference champions are back for 2017, with only pitcher Rachel Gillen leaving. Among those eight are shortstop Amy Van Hoven, centerfielder Sydney Canessa, and infielder Madison Shaw, who were all named to the A-10 first team last year, as well as outfielders Chelsea Skrepenak and Morgan Figueroa, and catcher Ally Vergona. Sophomores Maria Trivelpiece and Jordy Storm are also returning, and Orchard will be looking to them for increased contributions.
In addition to the returning players, Orchard has brought in five freshmen. They include pitchers Madison Auginbaugh, Stephanie Rundlett and Taylor Stocks, who will look to add depth behind senior hurler Lauren Quense, and plug the hole left open by Gillen’s departure. “[They] will be huge contributors this season,” said Orchard. “The three freshman pitchers will be looked to replace Gillen on the mound. Senior Lauren Quense will return as the ace of the staff and with the help of the freshman will look to fill the loss of Gillen.” Also joining the Rams are designated player Brielle Cerchio and infielder Skylar Johnston, who Orchard said will back up Lindsay Mayer at third base and could play her way into the starting DP spot.
This year Fordham opens their season with a double header at the Hillenbrand Invitational tournament hosted by the University of Arizona in Tucson this week. On Thursday, Feb. 9, at 9 p.m, the Rams will face #21 Baylor, followed by a match up with the hosts, #14 Arizona. The next day they take on Tulsa and wrap up the tournament on the 11th with a double header against California State University, Northridge (CSUN) and Northwestern.
Coach Orchard’s squad returns to the northeast against Hofstra on March 21, and plays their first home game, versus Iona, at Bahoshy Field in the Bronx on March 22 at 3 p.m.
“We are anxious to get started and our goal is always to get better every day.”