CSUN softball 2010 preview

Monique Muñiz

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With the 2010 season opening on Friday, the Cal State Northridge softball team has a new look in their coaching staff. Former associate coach Roni Sparrey, in her fourth season at Northridge, has taken over the head coach position after Barbara Jordan resigned in December, and has added two new assistant coaches in hopes to have a more productive season.

“It isn’t like we got a brand new coach that doesn’t know us,” senior first baseman Jaclyn Rymer said. “She knows what we are capable of.”

Sparrey’s Matadors, who finished with an overall record of 29-21 last season,  will have an experienced team, with six seniors coming back, a mix of juniors and sophomores, and only three newcomers.

“We have communication now,” said left fielder Lauren Olivas, who had a perfect, 1.000 fielding percentage last year. “I believe this season we are stronger and have team unity.”

CSUN will have eight starters returning, including outfielder Christina Saenz, who was one of the Matadors’ best hitters last season in batting average (.303), hits (37) and RBIs (21).

Rymer led the team in runs (31), on-base hitting percentage (.436), batting average (.319), hits (45) and walks (22).

In the Matador starting rotation, Debbie Duran returns as the Matadors’ ace. In 2009, Duran led the team in wins (18), earned runs average (2.43) and strikeouts (79).

Duran helped the Matadors get off to a solid start by going 14-5 in non-conference games last year and had an ERA of 1.55 before the start of the Big West Conference season.

Northridge went 20-9 in non-conference games, but showed fatigue in Big West play as it finished fourth in the conference, going 9-12.

In hopes to change that, the coaching staff has worked on the team’s conditioning during the offseason to get the ready to play a 52-game schedule.

“We (the coaching staff) have been mainly focusing on physical conditioning, including a lot of foot work, and running,” Sparrey said.

Sparrey wants to make sure the team stays physical and mentally ready for any situation CSUN may face, and the workouts have been promising.

“We have been pushing them really hard,” Sparrey said. “We have long practices, running and just pushing them to their limits.”

The preparation for the season has been tough, but the players seem to have noticed the difference.

“We feel more alive and we are ready to play.” Olivas said.

The toughest stretch of the season will be a 22-game span in which CSUN will compete against 15 teams that were mentioned in the preseason top-25 poll, including last year’s national champion Washington. The Matadors will also play against 17 2009 NCAA Tournament teams.

A recent Big West Coaches’ poll projected the Matadors to finish fifth in the conference.

“The Big West is always tough, but it comes down to who shows up to play,” Sparrey said.

Both the coaches and players don’t take the polls seriously, because  the predictions seem to always fail to come true. Last season, the preseason poll ranked CSUN seventh (last). The Matadors came in fourth.

“We don’t pay attention to (predictions),” Olivas said.

Preparing a team that wants to win has come down to pushing them to be mentally-tough and physically-stable, and making sure they stay motivated.

With those aspects, Sparrey says, when it comes down to the start of the season, “it’s anybody’s game.”

CSUN will start their schedule competing in the KajiKawa Classic in Tempe, Arizona on Friday.