BY NICK DIMATTEO
As the final innings came to a close of the 2014 women’s softball Division III National Championship the Salisbury University Sea Gulls had their remarkable season come to an end losing the series to Tufts, 2-1.
For their efforts in the 2014 season, head coach Marge Knight and her coaching staff were named the NFCA Atlantic Region Coaching Staff of the Year for the third straight season and now, the Salisbury women’s softball team is about to begin their journey in 2015 in order to capture a national championship.
The Sea Gulls will begin their 2015 season with a lot of confidence as many of their key players are returning from last year’s team after a 44-5 record. Ace pitcher Rachel Johnson returns to the mound as a senior while Kim Dorsey and Paige Knussman return as juniors as the staples of a well-rounded line-up.
All three players all earned First-Team All-American selections and Johnson was 2014’s Capital Athletic Conference Player of the Year and a member of the NFCA All-American First Team.
“The last two seasons we went to the world series so obviously that’s one of our goals,” Johnson said, “People are expecting a lot out of us and we set high standards for ourselves, but our ultimate goal is to get back to the World Series and win this year.”
Johnson posed a 29-4 record with a 1.35 earned-run-average in 2014, while Knussman led the team with a .516 batting average. In 2014, nine Sea Gulls batted with an average over .300 to give the Sea Gulls plenty of offensive power. Dorsey was an important piece as well as a sophomore and led the Sea Gulls last season in the scoring department – crossing the plate 63 times – and was second on the team with a .422 batting average.
Still, the Sea Gulls have improvements to make and despite the numbers, they came just short of their ultimate goal last season. They plan for things to be different in 2015.
“We want to get better in every part,” Johnson said. “Last season we played a 14-inning game (game two of the World Series) and we were not able to score so we want to put ourselves in tough situations (early in the season) so we can work out the little details.”
Even with the great numbers from last year’s team, and the long history of excellence for the Sea Gulls’ softball team, Knight––the team’s veteran skipper––is always trying to make her team better than before.
“We are trying to improve on every part of our game,” Knight said, “We got stronger in the offseason, changed the pitching staff. It’s familiar feeling, but a new one as well.”
Knight has been a model of consistency in her time at SU, entering her 19th season as the head coach of the softball team. In that time, she owns a 680-145-2 overall record and has tallied 17 NCAA tournament appearances, including eight trips to the World Series.
“The consistency is in the coaching staff, and the women come out and want to get better,” Knight said. “Those are just a few of the reasons as to why the women’s softball team has been so successful.”
With a familiar roster and a few new faces the Sea Gulls are poised to make another run at a conference championship, another Division III playoff appearance and another World Series run. The trio of Johnson, Dorsey and Knussman will lead the way while Katie Sebbane, Molly Simpson and Rebecca Hoey, all CAC-First Team selections in 2014, will chip in and play key roles.
CAC coaches have also tabbed Salisbury as the top team for 2015 and the No.2 team in the country in pre-season polls. The Sea Gulls are scheduled to open their 2015 season this weekend at the Grand Slam softball classic in North Carolina.
There, the 2015 team will be tested for the first time in a long season that is coupled with larger than life expectations.
“The expectations for the season are to win the national championship,” Knight said. “Easy to say, tough to do.”