Friday, June 22, 2007
Concord-Carlisle softball: a team to remember
When the regular season ended on May 25, the Concord-Carlisle High School softball team found itself in what has become a familiar position — Dual County League (DCL) champions. With a regular season record of 20-0, the team had won their third consecutive DCL championship. In addition, C-C players accumulated a variety of individual honors: seven were voted to DCL All Star teams, C-C players ranked first, second and third in batting and the starting pitcher was the top ranked in the league. Since 2000, when Lisa McGloin became head coach, the team has a record of 121 wins and 21 losses, and five DCL championships.
For most of the season the C-C softball team was ranked number one in the state by the Boston Globe. But in the first round of the Division II North tournament, the team was upset by Stoneham, 6-5, bringing the post-season to an unexpectedly early close. Three of the five seniors on the team are from Carlisle, and all are exceptional players and team members.
Catcher Lisa DeBruzzi, short-stop Eliza Jacobellis and right fielder Meredith Popolo, all of Carlisle, together with left fielder Sydney LeVan and pitcher Kim Miner of Concord have all been on the varsity team since their freshman year. Over the past four years this group of seniors has trained, practiced, played and, according to Coach McGloin, matured together. Underclassmen on the team include juniors Jayme Bilafer (center field), Rosemary Bagley (base runner) and Carly Streeter (base runner); sophomores Casey Tarca (third base) and Emily Beinecke (second base); and Carlisle freshman Georgia Guttadauro (first base).
Eliza Jacobellis, a four-year DCL All Star, ranked third in batting in the league this year with 34 hits, seven home runs and a .493 average. The only senior in the infield, Jacobellis provides leadership for the younger players around her, "I talk to them, I don't let them get down ... I really like the challenge of working as a team." McGloin considers Jacobellis, "our rock. She does not let down. She sets the tone for offense and defense." Miner adds, "She is an incredibly hard worker. She is a high-impact player, always 100%. She dives for balls and treats every practice like it's a game.
Meredith Popolo is a four-year varsity player who has recently developed her skill as a slap-bunter. Miner sees versatility as Popolo's greatest strength, "She is a true team player. She has had to move around a lot. She started as a courtesy runner and now she plays right field." According to Jacobellis, Popolo's batting skill has strengthened the offense: "Her slap-bunting is great — it keeps the defense off balance and they make mistakes." Popolo's favorite part of the game is base running. "It's smarts, speed, sliding and knowing when to take off — reading the ball quickly."
Georgia Guttadauro is the fourth member of the team from Carlisle. The only freshman on this year's varsity team, Guttadauro was named a second team DCL All Star and ranked second in the league in batting with 31 hits, one home run and a .500 average.
Despite the players' individual accomplishments, softball is a team sport and the C-C softball program focuses on team building. Coach McGloin chose to keep the team small, only 11 players, to allow them a better chance to bond with one another. "We spend a lot of time together. The players get to know each other really well. To be successful everyone must depend on each other. If everyone does their piece then we can win."
The Carlisle players are united in their respect for their coach. Jacobellis feels that the coach has made the team cohesive. "Our coach has a lot of experience. She knows what she is talking about and we know that if we follow her we'll win. She pulls us aside if we're not working together." Popolo agrees, "She's easily the best coach I've ever had. Everyone supports each other — it all comes from Lisa [McGloin]." DeBruzzi says the coach works hard to educate players about the game. "As team members we have a lot of input. We talk after every game and discuss what went right and what went wrong."
The team practices after school and on weekends but many of the players add extra time — training or playing together during the off-season. This extra contact helps to bring the players closer together according Popolo: "A lot of what makes us a strong close-knit team is our coach, but the seniors have played together for four years and many of us play together in summer leagues. This year Kim, Casey, Rosie, Lisa and I trained at Body by Boyle [in Winchester] — it brought us all together and makes us a stronger team."
Team members have enormous respect for one another. As the starting pitcher, Miner is thankful for the team's strong defense: "I'm incredibly lucky to have this defense behind me. Eliza anchors our defense. Casey and Georgia on front coverage are amazing. I only need to get batters to hit ground balls and the defense will take care of it. We all back each other up. That's how this team works."
Popolo notes that the team works hard to bring in the younger players; "They have a lot to offer. Coach McGloin tells them that she wouldn't place them on a team where they don't belong." From a freshman's point of view, Guttadauro agrees. "I came onto the team really excited about the chance to learn from Lisa McGloin," she recalls, "but I was not expecting the other girls to have changed me so much as a player. All the girls, but especially the seniors, supported me throughout the season and gave me the confidence I needed to feel like I belonged on such a talented team." She adds, "The bonds that developed on the team stretched so much further than the softball field."
Perhaps the concept of "team" is most evident in the pitcher/catcher battery of Miner and DeBruzzi. "After catching someone for four years, you get to know everything about each other," says DeBruzzi. "We are different people, but we matured together, and now we really appreciate what the other person can do." From Miner's point of view, "We are opposite types of people so we complement each other well and that makes us a stronger team . . . I know that I can trust Lisa to call the right pitches and the defense to back me up. I love having Lisa as my catcher. It's been a great four years."
Coach McGloin sees the seniors and their effect on the team this way: "I have never seen five girls grow and mature together so well. They have had to make social and personal sacrifices to get to this point. . . . I am glad to see that they understand that we are only as good as our newest players. The more we can help them learn and grow the better we will be."
For the five seniors on the team this is the final year of an unusually rewarding high school sports experience: hard fought games, winning seasons, league titles, a division championship, and the camaraderie of a team that works hard and well together.
When asked what they will miss most about C-C softball, the dedication of the Carlisle seniors to their team comes through. Jacobellis will miss "being part of a competitive team with great connections. It will be sad to go away from each other." Popolo adds, "I can't think of what I'm not going to miss. It's a great group of people." DeBruzzi admits that she has had a wonderful high school sports career but that, "Softball is my favorite. I love practice as much as the games. I love my teammates. I will miss everything about softball."
This fall DeBruzzi will enter Valparaiso University to study nursing, Jacobellis will attend North Carolina State to study animal science and Popolo will attend Syracuse University where she will major in communications. Both DeBruzzi and Jacobellis will play Division 1 softball.
To young girls who are thinking about playing, having fun is the universal advice from the Carlisle seniors. "Work hard but make sure that you like it because it's a lot of work," says DeBruzzi. "Get out there and practice, listen well and have fun," Jacobellis adds. And from Popolo: "Have fun with it. . . . Don't get down on yourself — you won't play well. If you make a mistake, brush it off but learn from it."
© 2007 The Carlisle Mosquito