BETHLEHEM, Pa. --- Moravian College is looking back at the 2015-16 athletic campaign with the No. 2 story in Top 10 Stories – the softball team winning its second straight Landmark Conference Championship.
The Greyhounds, who finished the season at 37-6, earned their seventh Landmark Conference title since the conference began competition in 2007-08, and Moravian captured the automatic berth to the NCAA Division III Tournament that goes with the conference championship on its home field for the first time since 2011 with a 2-1 victory over Susquehanna University at Blue & Grey Field on May 8.
The conference title was the 15th overall in the 23-year coaching tenure of John Byrne '82, who has a career mark of 750-228. Byrne had the Hounds in the postseason for the 22nd consecutive spring including a 16th trip to the NCAA Tournament where the Blue & Grey reached the regional final for the seventh time. Byrne was named both the Landmark Conference and ECAC Division III South Coach of the Year.
"The saying goes that pitching and defense will win you championships, and that is something that this team was able to show throughout the entire season, especially in the Landmark Tournament," noted Byrne.
Moravian had a record 10 student-athletes earn Landmark All-Conference honors including seven First Team selections with sophomore pitcher Josie Novak named the Pitcher of the Year and freshman center fielder Kat Spilman honored as Rookie of the Year to join Byrne in the major awards. Novak also earned a spot on the All-Conference First Team, and joining her were sophomore catcher Janae Matos, freshman second baseman Julia DeMarco, junior outfielder Julie Siragusa, senior outfielder Mary Schlosbon, junior designated player Victoria Conner and sophomore pitcher Amanda Carisone. Spilman garnered All-Conference Second Team accolades along with fellow freshmen third baseman Madison Shaneberger and shortstop Kaela Kane.
"Winning the conference championship for the second time was even better than the first," stated Matos. "Coming out this past season we had a target on our backs and we had to defend what was ours."
Carisone, Novak and Siragusa were also named to the National Fastpitch Coaches Association All-Atlantic Region Third Team, and the trio was named to the ECAC Division III All-Star Teams with Novak on the First Team while garnering Pitcher of the Year honors and Carisone and Siragusa on the Second Team.
The 2016 season started with a seven-game winning streak at the Spring Games played at the National Training Center in Clermont, Florida including a 3-0 win over No. 11 Alfred University. After a pair of losses, the Greyhounds returned home at 8-2.
Moravian opened the home season with a sweep of Neumann University before splitting a Landmark Conference doubleheader with the Catholic University of America on March 19 for an 11-3 slate. The Blue & Grey then went on an 18-game winning streak that saw them sweep through the rest of the Landmark Conference regular season including clinching a playoff berth and the top seed in the tournament on April 16 after two wins against Susquehanna University.
The Hounds next loss was to Steven's Institute of Technology on April 26 but the squad bounced back with three wins to finish the regular season at 32-4.
Rain postponed the opening day of the Landmark Conference Tournament in Bethlehem, but it didn't slow down the No. 19 ranked Greyhounds who defeated The University of Scranton, 8-1, in the opening game and then defeated Catholic, 6-1, to advance to the championship game. Moravian clinched its conference title the following day in a pitchers duel with Susquehanna as Novak earned the win and Carisone, who was the tournament's Most Valuable Player, picked up the save.
"Our two pitchers, Amanda and Josie, have been the biggest part of all of our successes," Matos explained. "Without either one of them we wouldn't be nearly as successful as we are. Being able to catch them both and have the trust in each other that we do is incredible. Our whole team is confident that we will win any game that we are in with either of our pitchers on the mound."
The Greyhounds finished the season by heading to Ithaca, New York for a four-team NCAA Regional. The Hounds defeated Worcester State University in the opening game before falling to the host Bombers. Moravian would rally to defeat Mount St. Mary College in an elimination game before the season ended in an extra-inning loss to Ithaca the following day.
After going 75-14 over the last two years and returning the entire line-up except for Schlosbon who graduated, the Greyhounds are ready for 2017.
"The expectations for this year are the same that they are any other year: to win a national championship. Only losing one player is going to make us a strong team coming back this season. So many of our players will have the experience of the postseason and understand what kind of play it takes to get us to that next level. We are excited to get about after defending our conference championship and playing deep into the NCAA tournament," finished Matos.
You can read the original game story on the Landmark title contest at http://moraviansports.com/sports/sball/2015-16/releases/20160508pp1fxn.
Story number one of the countdown will be released on Thursday, August 18 after a look at the stories that just missed the countdown on Wednesday, August 17.