SUNYAC softball title up for grabs

The softball team completed its regular-season competition going 3-5 overall in the final week of play. The 1-3 weekend in conference play pushed the Knights to the No. 4 seed for the upcoming SUNYAC championship tournament. Interim head coach David Sylvester said wishing the team had come out of the final weekend “a little better” is “kind of an understatement.”

“We did not want to do that before the SUNYAC tournament because I think that sets the tone that we’re not working to break,” he said.

For the first time in Sylvester’s tenure at Geneseo as assistant coach and now, interim head coach, the Knights weren’t fighting to qualify for SUNYACs in the final weekend, but rather battling for the No. 1 seed.

“The fact that we went into this weekend even having a shot at hosting SUNYACs really tells us a lot on how our team has grown since coach Dave has taken over – physically and mentally,” senior right fielder Lexi Williams said.

Sylvester said after the 10-3 loss to SUNY Oswego on Friday April 26, the Knights knew they weren’t contenders for the No. 1 seed anymore, but guaranteed No. 3 or No. 4.

“We didn’t drop ourselves any farther, but the momentum piece was going to be huge for us,” he said. Despite the dismal ending to the regular season, the Knights remain optimistic heading into playoffs. This year’s competition is so “cluttered,” Sylvester said, that anyone could be champion.

“This is wide open,” Sylvester said. “Whoever gets hot is going to win this tournament. One through six, all six can win this thing.”

Geneseo last clinched a conference title in 2002 with former head coach Tony Ciccarello, who now coaches in the same capacity at No. 5 seed SUNY New Paltz.

In regular-season play, the Knights at least split with the other tournament seeds – No. 1 SUNY Brockport, No. 2 SUNY Cortland, No. 3 SUNY Plattsburgh, New Paltz and No. 6 Oswego – with the exception of Cortland, who swept Geneseo 11-1 and 5-3 on Saturday April 27 and Plattsburgh who swept the Knights 6-1 and 5-4 in March.

“We have no reason that we [can’t] win SUNYACs, This is the first time going in that I’m like, ‘Holy crap we could win this whole thing,’” senior co-captain Katie Gallagher said. “[It’s] anybody’s game, any given day; we have to show up to play.”

Geneseo faces the Plattsburgh Cardinals on Thursday May 2 at tournament host Brockport. The SUNYAC championship tournament will conclude by Sunday May 5. With the conclusion of the playoffs, four seniors – Gallagher, Williams, senior co-captain Jessica Steubing and senior Alexa Salzman – will also complete their Geneseo intercollegiate athletic careers.

In addition to its achievements on the field, this senior class defined by strong leadership by example, Sylvester said, leaves behind a unique legacy.

The seniors commanded an incredibly young team with only three returning starters, according to Sylvester – something that “takes a lot of senior leadership to bring the team together,” he said. “They created a future for the next two, three years which hopefully will be a bright one.”