PRESQUE ISLE, Me (WAGM) - The UMPI softball team is about to start a week long road trip that features 12 games. Last year the Owls racked up 26 wins and made to the USCAA playoffs for the first time.
"It was an amazing experience, I never experienced that at high school. We never went far in any of my sports so it was a great experience," said junior Nicole Marucci.
"Making it to nationals last year was a goal for us and it was great to achieve that goal. Once we got there it kind of took us by shock playing on that stage and we didn't perform as well as we wanted to," added junior Sara Packard.
This year the Owls want to duplicate their success in the regular season and go farther in the playoffs.
"We want to make the top three and of course make it to nationals. We don't want to just make it, we want to compete this year," Marucci said.
One of the returning players is All-American pitcher Sara Packard. Packard has spent the off-season getting stronger and working on tweaking her pitches and form.
"Pitching wise we changed my changeup, so hopefully that's going to be more effective. We also changed my grip and the way I stand when I pitch. Hopefully we see results with that this season," Packard said.
"Sara definitely helps us for sure, anytime you have an All-American pitcher it's going to help. She's realizing she doesn't have to be everything for us. She just has to pitch a solid game and if they put the ball in play then our defense will play behind her. She understands that this year, she doesn't have to be everything. We have a very quality team, we don't need her to be everything," added head coach Sara Shaw.
The Owls only return three players and will be starting freshman in some key positions.
"We have a new middle infield this year, we have Emma Gogan from Nova Scotia. She's just solid and a great player. We have Jackie Peers from Limestone, she's just a great athlete. It was helpful to bring in some girls from other states, but also some quality Maine players too," Shaw said.
Shaw says the team has improved it's speed and the Owls are looking to add small ball to their offensive arsenal.
"We have speed this year. I think the last two years we haven't had as much speed. And this year when we played Mass Maritime earlier, one of the big comments was wow the small ball was just fantastic. Of course in a dome you have to play that way, but we definitely have the speed this year mixed in with some really good power," Shaw said.