Whether you’re a player or a coach, if you’re trying to reach the very top of your respective sport, there isn’t an offseason. Between the early morning workouts and a slate of games this fall, it’s obvious that the Pittsburgh Panthers softball team has their sights set on reaching the top.
Recently, head coach Holly Aprile was generous enough to answer some of questions around how the team is coming together this fall, and what they can do to take a step forward this season.
Q1: Your team went 17-6 against non-conference teams last year, but just 7-17 in conference play. What have you been emphasizing in the offseason to improve against ACC opponents?
“The ACC is highly competitive in softball, possessing the fourth best RPI in the country last year, so we need to be better in all aspects; pitching, defense and hitting in order to improve upon the 7-17 mark. However, our goal isn’t simply to improve that record, if we win eight games we will improve but we still might not make the ACC Tournament. Our goal is to compete for a conference title every year and that requires a lot more perseverance, toughness, and accountability from all of us in all aspects of the game.”
Q2: What are some of the opportunities and challenges in integrating three new assistant coaches to a team that is returning all but one starter from last season? How has that process been going so far?
“The opportunity to learn from a new staff, especially when they each have such tremendous credentials, is both exciting and rewarding. I think that we have a great team culture in that we are all eager to learn and grow. We are always looking for ways to get better. Any time you interact with new people, whether it be staff or our freshmen and transfers, I think there are challenges that arise in communication, but overall I think the transition has been very smooth.”
Q3: From a coaching perspective as well as a player development perspective, what will you be keying on during the four exhibition series this fall?
“The fall is a time to see how returning players have developed over the summer, to evaluate our newcomers and to see how all of the pieces fit together. We want to see everyone in a variety of roles and assess their performance under a variety of circumstances. We have key areas of focus for each position and we want to see those elements in action.”
Q4: Can you give me two or three players that you expect to take a big step forward this season and why?
“I expect that Kayla Harris and Sarah Dawson, a senior pitcher and a junior pitcher respectively, will both make great strides this season. They both have solid experience under their belts and they understand the expectations and the work ethic needed to be successful at our level. The time is now. I also think that a healthy Giorgiana Zeremenko can do some serious damage both in and out of conference.”