Opening day may not have been quite the start that Rye Neck was hoping for, but one early loss won’t do much to dampen the enthusiasm for a team that has its sights set on a sectional title. On Tuesday, March 27, the Panthers fell to visiting Pawling 2-1, but head coach Joan Spedafino remains confident that her veteran squad will be able to turn things around as Rye Neck looks ahead to its 2018 campaign.
Rye Neck’s first test turned out to be a pitching duel, as Panther hurler Olivia Dunne and Pawling’s Olivia Zoeller each fanned 15 to get off to a hot start this season. Unfortunately for the home team, the Tigers broke through in the top of the sixth inning, when Zoeller’s sister Julia drove in the game-winning runs.
According to Spedafino, however, the Panthers won’t read too much into the loss.
“We had only been outside four or five times, we didn’t hit and we made some costly errors,” she said. “But I told the team we’re going to take this loss, learn from it, and get better.”
And get better, they will.
The Panthers come into the season with eight seniors on the roster from a team that reached the Class B softball finals last year, including Dunne and battery mate Sam Yannuzzi who provide the backbone for this year’s squad.
“The two of them have been up together since they were in middle school and they’re both great role models,” Spedafino said. “They’re our leaders and they’re going to take us as far as we are going to go.”
But Dunne isn’t the only talented hurler on the team. Good-hitting first baseman Alycia Rodriquez will also see time in the circle this year, giving the Panthers some depth at pitcher.
“We’re going to look at the situations and see how it goes,” Spedafino said. “If we have to go back-to-back, we can give one girl a rest, but we have a lot of confidence in both of them.”
The Panthers will be back in action on March 29, after press time, when they travel to Putnam Valley to face a strong Tigers’ team. It’s one of several tough non-league games Rye Neck will have this year, as the Panthers have beefed up their out-of-conference schedule in order to prepare for a potential postseason run.
“We’ll play Mamaroneck, we are going to the Pelham tournament along with New Rochelle and Scarsdale, you always want to play the best,” Spedafino said. “It’s only going to help us get better.”