STORRS, Conn. – Youth is in abundance for the UConn softball team heading into the 2018 campaign, as six freshmen and eight sophomores populate a 19-player roster with almost exclusively underclassmen – but head coach Jen McIntyre doesn’t flinch at the thought.
Despite cold temperatures forcing the Huskies to retreat inside to the Shenkman Training Center for preseason practices, the first-year players have made progress each day as the season’s opening weekend approaches on Feb. 9-11.
“I think for the freshmen, this is probably the most fun and the most anxious time of year,” said McIntyre. “They have worked really hard, but don’t really know what to expect, so they are following the lead of the upperclassmen.”
The six players – Sam Barnett, Maura Glatczak, Reese Guevarra, Briana Marcelino, Marybeth Olson and Hollis Wivell – come from as far as Victoria, Minn. and as nearby as Madison, Conn., offering a multitude of experiences from their time on high school and travel ball teams.
“It was a big adjustment honestly. In high school, you prepare yourself by playing travel ball during the school year, but you never get the full taste of college life until you experience it,” said Wivell, an outfielder.
Wivell’s primary intention out of Daniel Hand High School was to look for schools down south to escape the wintery conditions of Connecticut. However, McIntyre painted a picture of UConn in a different light, according to Wivell.
“Coach Mac joked that the bright side of playing up here is that everywhere we go is south, so I never would be traveling to a colder location – which is true,” said Wivell.
She joins Marcelino as one of just three players from within state limits, along with sophomore pitcher Katie Koshes (Orange, Conn.). Marcelino is a native of Easton, Conn. and attended Joel Barlow High School.
“I definitely wanted to stay local and close to my family, but as soon as I came here with my first visit…I had been here many times before, but it was then that I realized I had to go to UConn,” said Marcelino.
— UConn Softball (@UConnSoftball) February 2, 2018
The Huskies prepare for the Jacksonville Softball Tournament next weekend, playing five games in three days against Army, Jacksonville and Jacksonville State. It marks the beginning of an early season schedule that includes six tournaments in Florida, South Carolina, Georgia, Oklahoma and Texas.
In terms of meshing with the team, the five upperclassmen have “stepped up to the plate” to make the freshmen feel welcome and comfortable. With each passing day, everything gets just a little bit easier for the youngsters.
“I think we are really coming together. We’ve been working really hard this preseason,” said Barnett. “We’re getting more used to the team, more familiar with the drills and are finding ways to adapt in all areas.”
Finding a balance between academics and athletics is a skill that requires practice and hard work, but also some good advice in dealing with a loaded schedule and high expectations. This is where the juniors and seniors have played their part.
“Our upperclassmen have done a great job with explaining to the freshmen what they really need to do to take care of their studies and meeting with tutors before going on the road,” said McIntyre. “We set a lot of this stuff up early so when we travel, we start to get into a routine.”
A quick impact is expected for UConn’s freshmen, as they all come to the school with previous softball and academic accolades. As the season rapidly approaches, they will soon get their first chance on a collegiate field to start building new athletic resumes.
“We are an extremely close class; we bonded quickly and we do everything together,” said Wivell.
She added, “People always joke that we’ll get sick of each other, but we’re just weird and we click well. We make each other laugh…I feel like we can build upon the camaraderie and chemistry of this team.”
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