Jan. 29, 2003
College Park, Md. - Like many things at Maryland, it's the dawning of a new era for Maryland softball. The Terrapins will be playing their first full season at their new, state-of-the-art softball complex. But the excitement doesn't come from the facility that's housing the team as it does from the team that's playing on its field. A talented group of veterans returns to the diamond this spring and brings with it an assortment of tools that will surely get the year off on the right foot.
With only two seniors returning to the team, this year's squad is young but experienced. Seven of Maryland's starters from the 2002 team are either sophomores or juniors who have experienced wins against ACC competition and have played against Top 25 teams. In addition to these veterans, four new faces are expected to make instant impacts in the Terps' lineup.
This well-rounded group can hit for power or slap a bunt when necessary to drive runs home. Three-time Mid-Atlantic Coach of the Year Gina LaMandre notes that this year's squad is making strides at hitting the ball more consistently, which was one of the focus points of fall practices. With a talented core of veterans, this year looks to be the one where the sophomore and junior classes blossom and bring Maryland to new heights in the ACC and eastern region.
In The Pitcher's Circle
The loss of Maryland ace and two-time all-region selection Amanda Bettker leaves this year's rotation with a larger responsibility to shoulder. Luckily, the three gritty veterans who will appear in the circle are up to the challenge.
Junior double-threat Monica Cyphert looks to improve upon her 10 wins from last season as she looks to anchor the Terrapin staff. Cyphert's powerful pitches fanned 108 batters in 113.1 innings of work last season, which places her eighth on the team's single-season strikeout records list. Hits were hard to come by against this intimidating pitcher, as she held opponents to a .196 batting average. She also proved to have an arm that won't quit after pitching all 13 innings of an overtime victory against St. Joseph's.
Back for her second season, sophomore fireballer Jessica Aditays looked great during fall practices and is expected to add to her seven victories from last year and share a majority of time in the circle with Cyphert. In her 20 appearances, she struck out 48 opponents and maintained a 2.00 ERA. She completed nine games, two of which were shutouts.
Junior Liz Gall is also expected to contribute to the Terps' rotation. Gall didn't pitch during the 2002 campaign, but was a great spot pitcher for Maryland in 2001. She shows good control, allowing only seven walks and striking out 17 during her rookie season.
Behind the Plate
With the graduation of backstop mainstay Beth Radford, versatile junior Casey Leiter will move in from the outfield and take over catching responsibilities. Last season, she shared time with Radford behind the plate. Leiter started 50 games for the Terps in 2002 and proved to be an offensive sparkplug. She amassed 43 hits, second-most on the team, and boasted a .339 on-base percentage.
Rachel Greyson, one of the team's three freshmen, is expected to share catching duties with Leiter. LaMandre scouts Greyson as a smart catcher with a quick release. This newcomer gunned down half of all base runners who attempted to steal as a four-year starter and defensive MVP at El Toro High School.
Around the Horn
A veteran group will serve as the core to Maryland's infield this season. Despite being a newcomer to Maryland, sophomore Crystal Rizzuto is no rookie. As a freshman, Rizzuto played third base for Toledo and maintained a .951 fielding percentage. She batted .262 for the Rockets, and LaMandre lauds her instincts in the field and her quick bat.
Energetic and versatile leader Jillian Callaway will move across the diamond from third to first in her senior season. Callaway has been a great contributor to the Terrapins throughout her career, providing a clutch bat in the lineup for the past three seasons.
The middle infield will be held down by veterans Jen Peel and Malissa Moczulski. Peel is coming off a strong fall and will be starting at second base for a third straight season. In 2002, she started every game for the Terps and drove in 21 runs. She also showed speed on the base paths by swiping six bags in six attempts. Her .963 fielding percentage exhibits her defensive prowess, and as LaMandre notes, "She has the ability to make the difficult plays look easy."
Moczulski will start at shortstop for her second season. The sophomore has a great arm and also contributed to the Terrapins' lineup during her rookie season. Her .344 slugging percentage was best among Maryland rookies and .361 on-base percentage was fifth-best on the team.
Sophomores Christen Cuozzi and Nneka Cardoza, along with freshman Shelly Rollison, will also play significant roles in the Terrapin infield. Rollison is expected to add depth to the corner positions, while Cuozzi is a middle infield specialist. Cardoza served as a key role player for the Terps.
In the Outfield
Maryland center fielder Samantha Sweeney returns to the outfield after a break-out season. Sweeney sat out all of 2001 with an elbow injury, but made an impressive comeback in 2002 and was named to the All-ACC team. Sweeney led her teammates and was among the ACC leaders in many offensive categories, including batting average (.350), runs scored (35), hits (62), triples (4), and stolen bases (25). As shown by her stolen base totals, this all-region second teamer possesses great speed and has the ability to hit for power or slap down a bunt.
Sophomore Lauren Pollock will return to the Terps' outfield after having a tremendous rookie season. Pollock was an instant contributor to the lineup, batting .248 and driving in 14 runs. When not patrolling the outfield, Pollock will serve as a designated hitter and the backup first baseman.
Crystal Tweedy turned heads during the fall season, causing LaMandre to remark, "Tweedy really impressed us. She's the most improved player since last year." As one of Maryland's top base runners last season, the sophomore scored 11 runs.
Also making appearances in the outfield will be Cardoza and freshman Natalie Grossman. Cardoza, typically an infielder, worked hard during the fall and made a smooth transition to the outfield. LaMandre says that she will add unparalleled depth to the Terps' defense. Grossman is a quick player with a good arm and will be vying for time in this talented outfield.
The most noticeable difference between last year and this year's schedules is that the Terrapins will play 40 home games. Between inclement weather and construction on the new Terrapin Softball Complex, the Terps took the field in College Park only five times.
Maryland will play host to three tournaments this season against regional threats Towson, Fairfield, Villanova, Hofstra, and Delaware State. Four of Maryland's scheduled opponents were ranked in the final 2002 USA Today/National Fastpitch Coaches Association Top 25, including No. 22 Georgia, which will host the Terps in their first weekend of action. Other nationally ranked opponents include ACC foes No. 4 Florida State and No. 18 Georgia Tech, along with No. 25 Florida Atlantic. The Terps will also faceoff with Illinois-Chicago and Chattanooga, both of which appeared in the NCAA Regionals last season. As always, Maryland will face tough competition during conference play, with road trips to Florida State and Virginia.
Despite the challenges, this young yet experienced team looks forward to rising to the occasion in 2003.
Follow The Terrapins In 2003
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