The last time the Lady Sharks softball team made it to the Florida Collegiate System Activities Association Athletics State Tournament was 2016. That ended a six-year run of state tournament appearances for the team.
Since then, the Lady Sharks have posted a pedestrian 33-60 record over two seasons, including a 15-30 mark last year. They’re hoping to avoid a third-straight season with 30 losses.
“There’s a big difference between the team from last year to this one,” said sophomore catcher Erika Yatabe. “We play together as a team. There [aren’t] any divides between the players.”
One reason for last year’s struggles—the team was almost entirely composed of freshmen.
“The team was inexperienced last year, they weren’t really aware of how much was required from them and how much work goes into the season,” said Lady Sharks head coach Gina De Agüero.
With a lack of a veteran leadership to guide them, they found themselves unable to close out games as the season progressed. Their play was uneven throughout the season; they had a three-game winning streak to start the year but lost eight straight to end it.
The team finished the season near the bottom of all major statistical categories. They closed out the season with .226 team batting average, 151 runs scored and an on base percentage of .301.
Now they’re back with a chip on their shoulder.
“They’re more focused [this year],” De Agüero said. “[Last season] they got a taste of what they don’t want. They’re competitors and right now they’re focused on starting the season right.”
Melissa Mayeux is the team’s undisputed best player. She posted a team-leading .371 batting average, eight home runs and 27 runs batted last year.
Mayeux, a returning sophomore, said she has noticed a change in the team’s attitude this year.
“The practices have been more intense, and because of that, the team has now began to trust in each other,” Mayeux said.
The Lady Sharks’ strength this year is expected to be their defense. De Agüero said she has seen her position players develop to the point where they can hold opponents to minimal points while their pitching depth is capable of keeping them in games.
The rotation features sophomores Amanda Aragon, Tiffany Dodson, Chiara Bias and freshman Ariana Arroyo.
On offense, De Agüero stresses the need for consistency.
“The hardest part will always be getting out, and staying out of slumps,” De Agüero said. “But it’s something we have to keep moving forward from. If something’s not working, we have to find another way to approach it so we can get better.”
The Lady Sharks open their season against ASA College on Jan. 19 at the softball field at Kendall Campus, 11011 S.W. 104th St., at 12 p.m.