With the St. John’s softball team participating in their annual fall tournament at Red Storm Field this past weekend, the team is not looking back on their first ever NCAA Tournament berth that was earned last season.
Instead, the Red Storm will return multiple key pieces and are looking to build on their success as they try to win a second straight Big East Tournament title and make their first postseason run in school history.
“Winning the conference again is the goal,” head coach Amy Kvilhaug said. “The bar has been set. We want to go back to the NCAA Tournament and we want to go further than we did last year even if that means winning a game out there.”
But it’s a step-by-step process and taking a jump as a program is not going to happen overnight. That’s where the importance of the team’s fall schedule comes into play.
“It gives us a baseline for the areas we need to work on for the spring,” senior outfielder Yvonne Rericha said. “We’re getting to know each other right now and we’re working on communication as a whole. It’s important we get a good strong start to the regular season so this is where it all starts.”
The Johnnies won all four games in the tournament, defeating Wagner twice, Iona and Sacred Heart but it’s the development of the younger players and the finding a rhythm both offensively and defensively that is key.
Senior first baseman Carly Williams, who hit a rocket shot over the fence against Sacred Heart, looks like she is poised for a critical jump as she is showing off more power and bat speed.
Freshman Madison Morris, who Kvilhaug and her staff have been recruiting for years, also looked impressive on the mound and could bring a different skillset to the pitching rotation.
The Red Storm also will be counting on second year talent Krystal Puga for massive production. As a freshman, the first baseman had a .359 batting average, a .672 slugging percentage and 11 home runs on her way to earning on spot on the First Team All-Big East squad. There’s potential for the sophomore to possibly top those numbers in this upcoming season with other talented hitters surrounding her bat in the lineup.
Another area that will work in the Red Storm’s favor in the spring will be leadership and experience.
“Up and down the lineup we have so many critical players,” Kvilhaug said. “The biggest thing I’m looking for is leadership from our seniors and upper classmen. We need to do the little things right. They need to police things to make sure we’re doing things the St. John’s way.”
With 10 upper classmen, a solid pitching staff, a dominate lineup and a great start to the fall tournaments, the Red Storm are trending upwards in what could be their best season in program history.