Teams grow as the season wears on, sure, but the most growth happens over the offseason — a period the Olentangy Liberty softball team takes very seriously.
The Patriots, who finished 20-7 last year and won the OCC-Central Division title, went right to work after falling to Gahanna Lincoln in a Division I district final last season.
On the field, they took advantage of their new turf.
“We got turf on both the varsity and JV fields and we’re very excited about that,” Liberty coach Ty Kashmiry said. “That’s allowed us to be outside in December, January and, of course, February. We feel this will give us an advantage.”
Off the field, Patriot captains Luci Matteo, Abbey Sells, Brooke Aberle and Allie Motyka worked on leadership.
“I put my captains through a 10-week leadership program where they have to interview other coaches, players and professionals in other sports,” Kashmiry said. “Our team works hard in the offseason.”
Aside from the captains, other returners include junior Allie Jenkins and sophomores Izzy Matteo and Ryann Kelly. Juniors Haley Colegrove, Lizzie Kuczek and Emma Imholz are also expected to contribute while Kashmiry said he has a ton of confidence in freshman pitchers Emily Chevalier and Kailey McGinnis.
Couple that will a stellar coaching staff, and, well, the Patriots are poised to make another deep tournament run.
“Our strengths are that we play as a team and have each other’s back,” Kashmiry said. “My coaching staff is comprised of two former OCC head coaches and one college coach. I don’t believe in weaknesses, but we have opportunities to mix in our new players and come together as a great team by tournament time.”
Liberty opens the season in Myrtle Beach before hosting Newark April 3 on the new turf. The Patriots will host Big Walnut a few days later before opening league play at Upper Arlington on April 13.
“We treat each team with the same respect, so we don’t have a game circled on our calendar, but I can tell you that our league was the toughest league in the OCC last year from top to bottom … and I expect the same this year,” Kashmiry said.