Virtually every season starts the same way for the Rowan softball team.
They’re the preseason favorites to win the conference championship, have a slew of players who could take home individual awards, and are met with ferocious conference foes.
This year, of course, is no different.
“We’re the best softball conference in the country by far,” said head coach Kim Wilson. “It’s a fight everyday. Everybody is trying to knock us off. We get everyone’s No. 1 for sure.”
The Profs are the preseason favorites to win the New Jersey Athletic Conference championship, and are looking to be repeat champions. In 2016, Rowan worked effortlessly through the conference and the team’s work came to a head in May when they shutout The College of New Jersey, 11-0, and forced a mercy rule in five innings of play.
For most teams, a conference championship is cause for celebration. It is for Rowan, too, but winning the conference title isn’t satisfactory enough for the Profs.
“The NJAC championship is just part of the puzzle,” Wilson said. “Our ultimate goal is to end up making the NCAA tournament.”
The Profs’ perennial dominance places them in a stratosphere beyond other teams in the conference. There isn’t a dangerous hubris in the locker room that causes the brown and gold to overlook their opponents and damage themselves with an inflated ego, but there is, rightfully, a strong confidence.
Their overwhelming power within the NJAC doesn’t allow for them to have a competitive year-in, year-out rivalry with one team.
“Everybody feels like they have a rivalry with us,” Wilson said. “I don’t feel like we have a rival. From year to year it changes. I feel like we’re a rival for other [teams], but they’re not necessarily a rival for us.”
This year, though, Rowan has the rare opponent marked on the schedule that it is looking forward to playing.
“Stockton,” sophomore shortstop Carly Anderson immediately said when asked if there was a game she was eager about. “This year we have a better chance with the strength that we have.”
In 2016 the Profs fell to Stockton in a nine-inning battle by one run. With that win, Stockton painted a giant bullseye on their back for 2017. The Ospreys visit Glassboro on April 4 for a doubleheader.
Stockton rounds out the top-three teams in the preseason NJAC coaches poll to finish on the podium, with Rowan in the top spot and TCNJ finishing second in the voting.
The Profs have one out-of-conference doubleheader separating them from their run to the NJAC championship tournament. They’ll host a talented Haverford College team for their first home game of the season, which is something the team is excited for.
“It’s going to be exciting,” Anderson said. “A lot of the girls, especially all of the freshmen, are anxious to play on our field.”
After Haverford, conference play will be underway, and the first team to get a crack at deterring the Profs from their back-to-back championships will be Montclair State University. The Red Hawks were selected to place eighth out of the conference’s 10 teams in the NJAC preseason poll, but they aren’t a team the Profs are disregarding.
“NJAC softball is competitive,” Anderson said. “There’s not one team that’s misplaced, not one team that doesn’t belong here. Each game we go into we have to bring our ‘A’ game.”
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