In the preseason poll of league head coaches, the Fairfield softball team was picked to place second in the MAAC tournament behind Canisius College.

Will they make it all the way to the NCAA? If the pattern of the past few years holds firm, things are not looking up.

Fairfield was predicted to attain a similar fate last year as the preseason poll named them the favorite to win the conference.

Following expectations, the women dominated the regular season. They closed up shop with an overall record of 32-27-1 and 8-8 in the MAAC.

However, in the championship game the Stags faltered. Despite being on their home field, the women lost a heartbreaking game to Marist College by a score of 1-0.

The team felt similar pain in 2005 when, after a long season of victory and an overall record of 31-27, they fell to Canisius in a landslide loss of 5-0.

“With success as much as failure, there are always lessons to be learned,” said Erin Frank ’08. ”

This trend has been evident in Fairfield softball history for the past few years. While the women manage to make their way to at least within the top four seeds in the conference, they always seem to falter at the point of greatest victory. Although they may dominate play for the entire season, they cannot seem to make that final leap across the line from MAAC to NCAA possibilities.

“Collectively, however, the team is very good about keeping momentum flowing from season to season,” said Frank. “Although we didn’t win the championship game last year, we put up a hell-of-a fight and we fully intend to use that spirit in the upcoming season.”

On the positive side, this year’s team seems to be the team, if any, that can get Fairfield out of its rut.

The 2007 Stags will hopefully find the drive they need in the leadership of three superb upperclassmen: Frank, Cagney Ringnalda ’07 and Julia Jacoby ’08.

Ringnalda has shown herself to be an impact player from day one, earning a .323 batting average and distinguishing herself as the team’s best hitter in her freshman year.

She has received All-MAAC honors all three years on the team and has made significant contributions as both pitcher and designated player.

This year, Ringnalda will hold the place of Fairfield’s top pitcher.

“The goal from the very beginning of the year has been to win the MAAC tournament,” said Rignalda. “We want to use every game, from preseason to conference, to prepare us for the MAAC tournament.”

Frank also made waves in her first years at Fairfield, setting a school record for home runs and RBIs in the 2005 season.

Whether it is next to home plate as a batter or behind it as catcher, Frank manages to set the tone for the team.

“I think in the past the team has only worries about the MAAC tournament when it came around. But this season, Coach [Brezinski] has made it a priority to focus all our efforts around that objective,” said Frank.

Speed around the bases is what sets Jacoby apart on the team, as she has stolen roughly 25 bases and secured an impressive number of doubles and triples over the course of two seasons as a Stag.

Alongside the upperclassmen will be seven rookie freshmen who are looking to shake Fairfield from its depressing mold.

“The freshmen make up a very large part of our team this year,” said Rignalda. “Out of the 16 players, seven are freshmen.”

Utility player and pitcher Meghan Borst, infielder Dani Griswold, pitcher Jen Gilbert, outfielder Jessica Stand, Kristie Trifiolis, first baseman Allie Ritacco and outfielder Caitlin Carroll round out the freshmen class that will be looked upon to add a more thorough and competitive lineup.

“The freshmen have brought our team an amazing amount of depth and I’m very excited to see what they can do this year,” Rignalda added.

With only Rignalda and pitcher Kate Roberts as the team’s seniors, the role of the rookies will be even more pronounced.

This year’s team may have greater depth than in the past, but the test will be their success in the tournament.

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