Spring Softball Preview 2023

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Can Neuqua Valley make it a three-peat as DVC champions? I give you a closer look at what teams will be making noise in softball. This preview is sponsored by BMO Harris Bank.

Neuqua Valley looks to get over the hump

The Neuqua Valley Wildcats were a force to be reckoned with in softball in 2022. They were DVC and regional champions for the second straight year and made it all the way to a sectional final. Unfortunately, they came up one run short against West Aurora. The Cats’ amazing senior class that included All-State performers like Hannah Meeks and Maia Clifford will not be back this year, which means an almost entirely different varsity roster and plenty of big shoes to fill. However, head coach Dani Asquini still has some key returnees who are ready to make a major impact.

Dani Asquini: “One is Izzy Ernest. She was all-conference last year for us, third baseman, pitches a little bit for us as well. She’s bringing that experience back to the diamond; that leadership and positive attitude. We also have Natalie Liacone who is coming back from last year. She is an outfielder for us. Once again, that experience from that varsity diamond she’s bringing back.”

The team will also be returning Trista Werner, Nadia Casanova, and Ava Drehs who picked up a bit of experience on varsity last season. All of them will be getting even more opportunities on the field this season. Even though positions and lineups have yet to be set, Coach Asquini says they’re putting the puzzle pieces together and that the girls are excited and motivated for this season. We’ll see if NV can continue its strong run of success in the DVC.

Benet Academy trying to take another step

Benet Academy was another team that performed well last season in softball. The Redwings were one of the better teams in the ESCC and took home a regional championship in class 3A. However, like Neuqua, they were knocked out in their sectional final, this time by St. Ignatius. The Wings will have to replace multiple talented seniors from 2022 in All-State selection Grace Fajardo, Elayna Brdecka, Sami Schilf, who committed to North Central, Sam Mikitka, who signed with St. Mary’s College, and many others. They will still have some key players back with names like Nina Pesare and Taylor Sconza. Benet hopes to continue the momentum of recent seasons, take another step this season and work their way to the top of the ESCC.

Naperville North hoping to finally knock off Neuqua Valley

Neuqua wasn’t the only squad making noise in DVC softball . Naperville North proved to be elite as well finishing just behind the Wildcats in the standings last year. The blue and orange won a team record 26 games and also secured a regional plaque for the first time since 2012 with a victory over their crosstown rival Naperville Central. The Huskies moved onto the sectional semifinal, but fell to the DVC champs in a shutout. Five seniors depart the program including All-State first baseman Kendall Kedziora. However, they get multiple key players back like Shayna Woolwine, Olivia Hebron, Kristina Donaldson, and reigning DVC Pitcher of the Year Charlotte Chelich, the All-State hurler who is already committed to Truman State. She and the Huskies look to finally dethrone Neuqua Valley and make a deeper run in the postseason.

Metea Valley ready to make some noise in the DVC

The Metea Valley Mustangs are looking to take a big leap in softball in 2023. They come off a season in which they struggled against non-conference opponents, but were a tough out in the DVC, finishing in third place behind North and Neuqua.  Like the Huskies, the Mustangs were also eliminated by Neuqua Valley in the postseason. Despite the early exit, their efforts in head coach Michaela Paprota’s first season provide hope for the program. Key players Nia Lewis and pitcher Nevaeh Cruz graduated, but Metea will bring back multiple contributors going into this season.

Michaela Paprota: “So we are returning 10 players from last year and then we’ve added three additional. All of them have been in the program for at least one year so we have a lot of experience. We’re also returning two all-conference players: Reese [Valha] and Riley O’Neill. It’s a new season and that’s what I keep telling them. They need to come every day with more energy, more leadership, and just ready to go.”

The Mustangs will have Genevieve Gonzales returning along with seniors Michelle Hess and Macey Martin. Coach Paprota was pleased with her team’s performance in 2022 and she says the girls are pumped to show the DVC what they’ve got this season.

Waubonsie Valley getting healthy

Waubonsie Valley had yet another difficult year in softball in 2022. It was their sixth straight losing season and the struggles carried into DVC play. They did pick up an impressive win over Naperville North in the middle of the season, but the good times were few and far between as their season ended in the regional semifinal, losing to West Aurora. The Warriors lose six seniors from last year’s team including Alison Keppler. The good news is that top hitter Hannah Laub, who missed the final month of 2022 with a knee injury and received surgery back in June, will return to the diamond along with seniors Mackenzie Ondrejcak and Anna Riggs along with junior Gia Cobert. It will be a young roster heading into the 2023 campaign, but with their veteran leaders and a healthy Laub, the Warriors have the pieces to make some noise in the DVC.

Naperville Central looking to bounce back

The Naperville Central Redhawks also went through a trying season last year. After losing a lot of the roster from 2021, they too had a losing record and could never find their footing against conference opponents. The team did go through a nice stretch late in April in 2022, but still finished near the bottom in the DVC. Central did pick up a postseason win, advancing to the regional final to face Naperville North, but as mentioned in the Huskies’ preview, the Redhawks were unable to get past their arch rivals. Anne Saran is among three seniors who have left the program. However, head coach Andy Nussbaum does return players like Courtney Fournier, Jamie Saran, Sydney Hurst, Luca Seeling, Julia Nicholus, and Kendell Lenz, who committed to the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire back in July. With a blend of young and veteran talent, it will be no surprise to see the Redhawks bounce back to their winning ways this season.

Check out the other previews here!